Politicization of Appointments of Governors Context
The controversy over the politicization of the Governor post is once again in the news over delayed decision making by the Governor of TN in the appointment of CM.
Let us examine detail the debates related to the gubernatorial posts.
How are Governors appointed?
Under the Articles 155 and 156, Governors in India are appointed directly by the President and holds office “during the pleasure of the President”.
The President in turn, according to the Constitution, acts on the advice of the council of ministers headed by the prime minister under the Article 74 of the Constitution. In effect, therefore, governors are appointed by the central government.
Role of the Governor
In a federal system, state governors, as the president`s representatives, play a unique role.
- India invented the role of state governor after Independence to act as a conduit between the ceremonial head of state (the president) and the chief minister of each state, as the president’s eyes and ears in the country’s diverse and far-flung states.
- Their duty is to be neutral guardians of the complex relationship between the federal government and state governments belonging to different political parties.
But this role got diluted after few decades into governance. Today governors are the handmaidens of the Union government, as Supreme Court said in one of the judgements ‘agents of the centre’.
Criticism of regarding the Governor Posts
- The governor selections have come to be made on grounds of political partisanship, favouritism, patronage and cronyism.
- The governors are becoming the eyes and ears for Central Government instead of the President.
- The misuse of the office of the Governor for political purposes to dispose the rival political parties’ government by invoking the Article 356 on dubious or doubtful grounds.
- Appointment of Judges as governors.
- Appointment of people involved in the active politics of the State.
- Removal of Governor merely because he is not on the same political or ideological page as that of the government, this happens despite constitutional bench saying
- a Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre.
- Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union Government has lost confidence in him.
Recommendations made regarding the Governor Posts
Sarkaria Commission Report Recommendations
- “The Governors tenure of office of five years in a State should not be disturbed except very rarely and that too for some extremely compelling reason. It is very necessary to assure a measure of security of tenure to the Governor’s office.”
- Governor should be an eminent person and not belong to the state where he is to be posted.
- State chief minister should have a say in the appointment of governor
- Governor should be a detached figure without intense political links or should not have taken part in politics in recent past.
- Governor should not be a member of the ruling party.
- Governor should be removed before his tenure only on the grounds as if aspersions are cast on his morality, dignity, constitutional propriety, etc.
The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution headed by Chief Justice Venkatachaliahrecommendations:
- that a governor’s appointment should be entrusted to a committee comprising the prime minister, the home minister, the speaker of the Lok Sabha and the chief minister of the concerned state.
- If they have to be removed before completion of their term, the central government should do so only after consultation with the Chief Minister.
The Punchhi commission recommendations
- The person who is slated to be a Governor should not have participated in active politics at even local level for at least a couple of years before his appointment.
- For office of Governor, the doctrine of pleasure should end and should be deleted from the constitution. Governor should not be removed at whim of central government. Instead, a resolution by state legislature should be there to remove Governor.
- There should be provisions for impeachment of the Governor by the state legislature along the same lines as that of President by President.
- The convention of making the Governors as chancellors of universities should be done away with.
- The commission recommended for “localising emergency provisions” under Articles 355 and 356, contending that localised areas — either a district or parts of a district — be brought under Governor’s rule instead of the whole state.
The Supreme Court’s interpretation
In 2010, a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court interpreted these provisions and laid down some binding principles (B.P. Singhal v. Union of India), the Supreme Court held:
- President, in effect the central government, has the power to remove a Governor at any time without giving him or her any reason, and without granting an opportunity to be heard.
- However, this power cannot be exercised in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner. The power of removing Governors should only be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reasons.
- The mere reason that a Governor is at variance with the policies and ideologies of the central government, or that the central government has lost confidence in him or her, is not sufficient to remove a Governor. Thus, a change in central government cannot be a ground for removal of Governors, or to appoint more favourable persons to this post.
- A decision to remove a Governor can be challenged in a court of law. In such cases, first the petitioner will have to make a prima facie case of arbitrariness or bad faith on part of the central government. If a prima facie case is established, the court can require the central government to produce the materials on the basis of which the decision was made in order to verify the presence of compelling reasons.
Despite several commissions appointed by Government themselves and the Supreme Court guidelines, the post of governor is misused again and again.
It is, however, time for a thorough review of the Governor’s powers and the process of appointment and removal.
- New rules and conventions may need to be put in place so that the ability of the Central Government to misuse this office is curtailed, while the Governor’s ability to fulfil his or her constitutional mandate is strengthened.
- The ruling party should convene an all-party meeting and consult other stakeholders such as jurists to review the role of the Governors, the powers exercised by him and the manner in which he should be appointed and removed.
- The Constitution should be amended and security of tenure must be provided to the Governors. The judgment of the Supreme Court delivered in B. P. Singhal case is the law of the land and the Government should respect it.
- The Governors should be treated with dignity, and should not be fired only for political considerations.
The Constitution of the land prohibits the arbitrary exercise of power and the Government is not an exception to the equality law.
Test your self
- With repeated misuse of the office of Governor, has the post become obsolete? Give your argument whether Governor post could be abolished.
- Several commissions recommending the reforms for the gubernatorial posts have been ignored by successive governments. Enumerate the suggestions made, and are they still relevant?