Governor’s Role in Approving a Bill

Governor’s Role in Approving a Bill

Indian Polity is one of the important subjects of the Civil Services examination and it requires a well-structured study plan during UPSC exam preparation. A crucial subtopic of Indian Polity, “Governor” was in news recently.

Why in the News?

Recently, the Tamil Nadu assembly adopted a Bill seeking to grant exemption from the mandatory National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test (NEET) for seats allotted by the Government in undergraduate medical and dental courses in the State. Earlier the Bill was returned by the Governor for reconsideration of Legislative Assembly.

Probable Question

The position of the Governor has been envisaged in Indian polity to act as a bridge between Centre and States. Analyze

Understanding the Concept:

Legislative Powers of the Governor:

  • A Governor is an integral part of the State legislature. Without his/her assent a bill cannot become a law. Hence, the governor role is paramount. 
  • Article 200 of the Indian Constitution deals with the grant of assent to Bills passed by the Legislative Assembly.

When a Bill is sent to the Governor after it is passed by State legislature, he can:

  • Give his assent to the bill
  • Withhold his assent to the bill,
  • Return the bill (if it is not a money bill) for reconsideration of the State Legislature. However, if the bill is passed again by the State Legislature with or without amendments, the Governor has to give his assent to the bill.
  • Reserve the bill for the consideration of the President.
  • In one case such reservation is obligatory, that is, where the bill passed by the State Legislature endangers the position of the State High Court.

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Rationale Behind the Governor’s Withholding Assent on Bill:

  • If a Bill is passed by the State Legislature and the Ministers resign before the Bill gets the Governor’s assent, the new Ministry may not want to go ahead with the Bill and might advise against assent being given.
  • To check any hasty procedure followed by the State Legislature.

Present Context:

  • In the present case of Tamil Nadu, the Bill will have to be sent to the President for his assent, as it is enacted under an entry in the Concurrent List on a subject that is covered by a Central law.
  • NEET is mandatory under Section 10D of the Indian Medical Council of India Act, an amendment introduced in 2016.
  • Therefore, the State law can be in force only if the President grants his assent.

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What happens when the President considers the Bill?

  •  Article 201 deals when a Bill passed by a State legislature is reserved by the Governor for consideration of the President. The President can:

o Give his assent to the bill;

o Withhold his assent to the bill;

o Direct the Governor to return the bill (if it is not a money bill) for reconsideration of the State legislature.

  • It should be noted here that it is not obligatory for the President to give his assent even if the bill is again passed by the State Legislature and sent again to him for his consideration.
  • This means that the Bill will become law if the assent is given, but nothing can be done if the Bill is denied assent by the President or if he makes no decision.

Governor vis-i-vis State Relations:

Although the Governor has been envisaged as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the Council of Ministers, there are, however, no provisions laid down for the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage publicly when there is a difference of opinion.

In recent years, there have been many instances between the Governor and State Governments largely about the selection of the party to form a government, deadline for proving majority, sitting on Bills, and passing negative remarks on the state administration 

For Example:

  • In West Bengal, the Governor has often commented on law and order and political violence.
  • In December 2020, Kerala Governor turned down a request to summon a special sitting of the Assembly to debate the three central farm laws.

Reasons for Conflict between Governor and State Government:

  • There is no provision for impeaching the Governor, who is appointed by the President on the Centre’s advice. While the Governor has a 5-year tenure, he can remain in office only until the pleasure of the President.
  • In the Constitution, there are no guidelines for the exercise of the Governor’s powers, including for appointing a CM or dissolving the Assembly.
  • There is no limit set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill.
  • Since the Governor is appointed by the President and holds office only until the pleasure of the President. Therefore, his position is perceived as an ‘agent of Centre’.

Way Forward:

  • From the Administrative Reforms Commission of 1968 to the Sarkaria Commission of 1988, several panels have recommended reforms, such as selection of the Governor through a panel comprising the PM, Home Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and the CM, apart from fixing his tenure for five years.
  • A code of conduct should be outlined that guides the exercise of the Governor’s ‘discretion’ and his powers which he is entitled to use and exercise on his judgment.
  • There is a need to strengthen the federal setup (such as inter-state council) in India to check misuse of the office of Governor.

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