Legal experts have told President Pranab Mukherjee that Governors and Lt Governors remain in office at the pleasure of the President and, as per law, they “cannot be asked to step down merely because a new political dispensation has taken over at the Centre”.
The President had sought their opinion on the power of the new government to remove Governors following efforts by the NDA government to get UPA-appointed Governors to quit on their own.
“All legal experts are unanimous in saying that it will not be legally tenable if all Governors and Lt Governors-cum-Administrators for Union Territories are removed in one go by invoking the doctrine of pleasure,” a senior functionary of Rashtrapati Bhawan told The Indian Express. “We have also been told that in case the government decides to invoke the doctrine of pleasure and remove Governors, then each case will have to be examined on merits and unless the conditions laid down in the judgment of the Supreme Court in the B P Singhal case are satisfied, the Governors cannot be removed.”
Under Article 156(1), the Governor holds office during the pleasure of the President.
Under Third Schedule of Rule 8 of the Transaction of Business Rules, approval of the Prime Minister and the President is required for appointment and removal of Governors and Lt Governors. The power under Article 156(1) being an executive power, it has to be exercised on the aid and counsel of ministers and the President has no individual discretion to act on his own.
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“Since the decision of removal of the Governor is open to judicial review, the President can always return any such proposal as and when received from the Government for re-consideration with a request that it may be examined in the light of the directions given by the Supreme Court,” explained a legal expert.
In its judgment in the B P Singhal case, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that 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”. The five-Judge Bench headed by then Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan had also ruled that “change in government at Centre is not a ground for removal of Governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government”.