Office of Governor – Issues & Recommendations


    In News

    • Recently, Tamil Nadu‘s ruling party intended to sign a joint petition with the opposition, asking the Indian President to immediately remove their Governor.

    More about the news

    • Other states:
      • Governors in several states, including Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, etc. have also expressed disagreements with the government on various issues.
    • Issues:
      • The role, powers, and discretion of the Governor’s Office in multiple States have been the subject of constitutional, political, and legal debate for decades.
    • What have been the friction points?
      • Allegations of the Centre using the Governor’s position to destabilise state governments have been made since the 1950s.
      • In recent years, the issues have been largely about the 
        • Selection of the party to form a government, 
        • Deadline for proving the majority, 
        • Sitting on Bills, and 
        • Passing negative remarks on the state administration.

    About the office of Governor

    • About:
      • He/she is the Chief Executive Head of a State.
      • The governor is a nominal (titular or constitutional) head. 
      • Acts as an agent of the central government.
    • Appointment of Governor:
      • Under Article 155 and 156 of the Constitution, a Governor is appointed by the President and holds office “during the pleasure of the President”.
    • Qualifications: 
      • The Constitution lays down only two qualifications for the appointment of a person as a governor.
        • He/she should be a citizen of India.
        • He/she should have completed the age of 35 years.
    • Tenure:
      • A Governor holds office for a term of five years from the date on which he/she enters upon the office.
      • However, this term of five years is subject to the pleasure of the President.
    • In relation to the Council of Ministers:
      • Article 163 of the Constitution says the Governor will normally be aided and advised by the Council of Ministers except in those functions which require his discretion.
    • The Governor enjoys certain powers granted under the Constitution, such as:
      • Giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature, 
      • Assenting to the convening of the state legislative assembly
      • Determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority, and 
      • Which party must be called first do so, generally after a hung verdict in an election.
      • All these powers have been flashpoints recently.
    • Removal:
      • No impeachment:
        • While the Governor’s duties and responsibilities lie in a particular state, there is no provision for impeaching the Governor.
      • Withdrawal of pleasure:
        • As the President works on the aid and advice of Prime Minister and the council of ministers, in effect, the Governor can be appointed and removed by the central government.
        • If this pleasure is withdrawn before completion of the five-year term, the Governor has to step down
          • Thus, a Governor is a representative of the Union government in states. 
    • Challenges of the post of Governor:
    • No constitutional provisions in case of disagreement:
      • There are no provisions laid down in the Constitution for the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage publicly when there is a difference of opinion. 
    • On the security of tenure & pleasure of President:
      • Since the Governor holds office “on the pleasure of the President”, questions have been raised on
        • Whether the Governor has any security of tenure, and 
        • If the President is obligated to show reasons for recalling a Governor.

    Opinion of Supreme Court and various Committees

    • Supreme Court on President’s power:
      • In its judgment, the Supreme Court, while noting that the President can remove the Governor from office has noted that the power to remove can’t be exercised in an “arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner”.
      • The power will have to be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reason.
      • 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.
    • Committee recommendations on the removal process:
      • Over the years, several panels and commissions have recommended reforms in how Governors are appointed and how they function.
      • Security of tenure:
        • The Sarkaria Commission had recommended that Governors are not sacked before completing their five-year tenure, except in “rare and compelling” circumstances. 
      • Proposal for the introduction of impeachment:
        • Recommendations have also been made for a provision to impeach the Governor by the Assembly. 
      • Independence of Governors:
        • Punchhi Commission report stated that Governors were expected to be independent, and to act in a manner devoid of any political consideration. 
        • It pointed out that independence of such actions would include keeping the State Legislature and the political executive shielded from the political will of the Union Government.
      • However, none of these have been implemented.

    Way Ahead 

    • At a time when regional political forces are actively seeking to be heard by the Centre, it may be time that the provisions relating to the Governor’s role are amended.
    • Identifying areas of discretion, fixing a time-frame for them to act, and making it explicit that they are obliged to go by Cabinet advice on dealing with Bills can be considered.

    Source: TH