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Why has the DMK asked President Droupadi Murmu to sack Governor R N Ravi?

The relationship between the Stalin government and the Tamil Nadu Raj Bhavan has been tense over a number of issues. The government has taken exception especially to the Governor refusing to clear legislation passed by the democratically elected state Assembly.

Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi. (Twitter/@rajbhavan_tn)

The DMK has petitioned President Droupadi Murmu asking that Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi be recalled on grounds of unconstitutional conduct, and his failure to sign a large number of Bills passed by the state Assembly.

What is the DMK’s argument?

The memorandum from the Secular Progressive Alliance, which includes the DMK and its allies, points to “pressing matter of great urgency for the state and its people”.

It says that under the Constitution, the Governor, “being a nominal head of the State, is…expected to exercise [executive] power as per the aid and advice of the Council of the Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head of the State… The Governor performs important constitutional functions, which require him to be impartial and a person of impeccable integrity, [and] a Governor who does not have faith in any one of these ideals is not fit to hold constitutional office”.

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Also, the memorandum says, it is “imperative that a Governor who turns political must cease to be a Governor’’, and that when the unelected Governor opposes a popularly elected state government, it becomes a “constitutional perversion”.

But why is the government upset with the Governor?

The M K Stalin government has been at loggerheads with Governor Ravi over the past several months over a number of issues including, most recently, the Governor’s criticism of the state’s response to the October 23 Coimbatore car blast. The government has also taken exception to Ravi “praising Sanatana Dharma”, and accused him of “instigating communal hatred”.

Similar friction between the Governor and elected state governments have been seen in West Bengal, Telangana, and Kerala, all of which are ruled by the Opposition. In all these states, as also in Maharashtra under the MVA and the Union Territory of Delhi, the Governor/ Lt Governor has been accused of acting in a partisan manner at the behest of the BJP-led central government.

The DMK petition especially mentions 20 Bills passed by the Assembly which are awaiting Ravi’s assent. These include a Bill passed by the Assembly to exempt the state from NEET, the medical entrance examination.

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“The framers of the Constitution would never have imagined a situation where a Governor openly contradicts the policy of the elected State Government or impedes legislation passed by the legislature by indefinitely delaying assent or acts against secularism,’’ says the memorandum.

“We are pained to note that the Governor is unduly delaying assent to the Bills passed by the State Legislature. This amounts to interference in the administration of the State and transaction of business by the Legislature…The need, requirement or necessity of a Bill cannot be inquired into by the Governor. That is within the sole prerogative of the Legislature, which extensively debates the necessity of the Bill,’’ the memorandum says.

Can the Governor decline to sign a Bill passed by the state Assembly?

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Article 200 of the Constitution says that a Bill that has been passed by the state legislature “shall be presented to the Governor and the Governor shall declare either that he assents to the Bill or that he withholds assent therefrom or that he reserves the Bill for the consideration of the President”.

However, the Constitution does not lay down a time limit for the Governor to assent, withhold assent, or reserve the Bill for the President’s consideration. In a situation of an adversarial relationship between the governments at the Centre and the state, the Governor, as the representative of the Centre, has often been accused of misusing this constitutional silence.

First published on: 09-11-2022 at 20:20 IST
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