Friday, Oct 31, 2014

Keep out will, whim and fancy

const-L Under Article 155 and 156 of the Constitution, a governor is appointed by the president and holds office during her pleasure. (Source: PTI)
Written by Subhash C Kashyap | Posted: August 29, 2014 12:14 am

Since the commencement of the Constitution in 1950, it is for the third time that governors — this time, as many as nine — have had to go following a change of guard at the Centre. Congress and non-Congress governments have done the same thing every time the occasion has arisen. The situation is still developing, and the numbers may go beyond nine. Also, the issue of the removal of governors has been taken to court for the third time.

The office of governor has been mired in controversies — regarding appointment, functioning and removal — from Day One. From time to time, certain state governors have been accused of partisan behaviour and of acting as agents of the party or parties in power at the Centre. Some commentators have gone so far as to suggest doing away with the institution of the governor all together.

A dispassionate analysis of the need and role of the office would show that it is one of great dignity, responsibility and continuing relevance. On the one hand, a governor was envisaged as the constitutional head of the state, and on the other, as the representative of the Union in the state. She was expected to be a vital link between the Union and the state, to act as the eyes and ears of the Centre, and to generally ensure that the government of the state is carried out in accordance with the Constitution and, particularly, to see that the interests of the Union are safeguarded. In context of the many fissiparous tendencies that come to the fore now and then, the office of governor becomes even more relevant and important. Misuse of the high office by unscrupulous holders constitutes no argument for its abolition. If constitutional offices begin to be scrapped because some of their occupants indulge in unbecoming conduct, very soon hardly anything would be left.

Under Article 155 and 156 of the Constitution, a governor is appointed by the president and holds office during her pleasure. Thus, both appointment and continuance in office are dependent on the pleasure of the Union government. The Sarkaria Commission and the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution both suggested salutary reforms — including that governors should be selected only from among eminent persons not too intimately connected with active party politics. So long as this advice is not heeded, controversies because of their removal at the time of a change of government would continue.

In Surya Narain Choudhary vs Union of India, the Rajasthan High Court held that the pleasure of the president was not justiciable, the governor had no security of tenure and she could be removed by the president at any time by withdrawing her pleasure. In B.P. Singhal vs Union of India, the Supreme Court looked into the pleasure continued…

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