[Answered] Discuss the significance of the Chief Justice of India’s interpretation of Article 200 of the Constitution in the context of law-making at the state level. How does this interpretation impact the legislative autonomy of states?

Introduction: Give a brief overview of judgment.

Body: Highlight the significance of judgment in the interpretation of Article 200

Conclusion: Way forward

The recent judgment of SC in the State of Punjab vs Principal Secretary to the Governor of Punjab and Another gave a new interpretation to Article 200 which relates to the options before a Governor when a Bill, after being passed by the State Legislature, is presented to him for his assent. The judgment says that if the Governor decides to withhold assent, he has to send it back to the Assembly immediately for reconsideration, in which case he has no other option except to give assent.

Significance of CJI interpretation of Article 200

  • Rights of legislature: The judgment seeks to protect the rights of state assemblies in matters of lawmaking as it is common for an unelected Governor to withhold assent to the bills passed by the assembly without any reasonable cause.
  • Delay in law-making exercise: Governors tend to not give assent to the bills and keep the bills pending for two or three years, virtually negating the legislative exercises of the State. In the Punjab case, the Indian Supreme Court made it clear that governors could not postpone the Bills’ decision. Consequently, Article 200 now has more clarity thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling, and governors must act swiftly to decide on the Bills.
  • Strengthen the principle of federalism: The judgment further strengthens the principle of federalism and gives state assemblies autonomy in respect of law-making by placing a constitutional mandate on the duty of the Governor to give assent to the bills within a time frame.

How does it impact the legislative autonomy of the state?

  • No clear definition: The second provision of Article 200 of the Constitution only mentions that bills that endanger the powers of the High Court are to be reserved by the Governor for consideration by the President. However, owing to a lack of clarity in definition Governor uses his discretion to send any Bill to the President.
  • Ordinance-making power: Under Article 213 of the Constitution Governor can in certain cases promulgate an ordinance only with instruction from the President. This article also impacts the legislative autonomy of the state.
  • Distribution of legislative powers between the Union and State: Under Article 254 repugnancy arises when there is a conflict between a central law and a state law on a subject in the Concurrent List. The only exception is that state law may prevail when it has been reserved for the consideration of the President and has received his assent.

Conclusion

The drafters of the Constitution did not foresee the possibility of Governors indefinitely delaying their decisions on Bills under Article 200. This phenomenon is a recent development that demands a fresh solution within the constitutional framework. As a result, it is suggested that the Supreme Court establish a reasonable timeframe within which Governors must make a decision on a Bill passed by the Assembly. This proposed intervention is seen as essential for preserving the principles of federalism in the country.

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