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Governor and his powers | Law Optional Notes for UPSC PDF Download

Introduction

In India, both the President and the Governor are often seen as figureheads, with the Governor's role outlined in Article 153 of the Indian Constitution. Consequently, the Governor's position is largely ceremonial, while the real authority lies with the group of ministers led by the Chief Minister.
Ultimately, the Governor is expected to exercise their powers and responsibilities with the guidance and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister, except in matters requiring their independent judgment. To understand the Governor's constitutional role, it's essential to refer to Articles 154, 163, and 164. The constitutional authority of the state resides in the Governor, who can exercise it directly or through subordinate officers as prescribed in the Constitution (Article 154). Thus, the Indian Constitution grants various powers to the state's Governor. This article explores the Governor's powers and their position in accordance with these constitutional provisions.

Appointment and Eligibility Criteria for the Governor

The President of India typically appoints the Governor under Article 155 of the Indian Constitution. The appointment is made by the President using an official seal and warrant. To be eligible for the position of Governor, a candidate must meet certain criteria outlined in Article 157 of the Indian Constitution:

  1. The individual cannot be a member of either house of parliament or a state legislative body.
  2. The candidate must not hold any office that generates profit.
  3. While the Governor can use their official residence for personal purposes, they cannot charge rent for it.
  4. If an individual is appointed as the Governor of multiple states, they are entitled to receive the salary for both positions (as determined by the President of India).
  5. The Governor's salary and allowances cannot be reduced during their term.

Since the Constitution does not specify a direct or indirect method for electing the Governor, the appointment is typically made through nomination by the Central Government and approved by the President of India. However, once appointed, the Governor is free to exercise their judgment and perform their duties in the interest of society. Nevertheless, due to the Governor's powers, they can sometimes be utilized as a tool for interference by the central government in situations where there is a lack of coordination between the state and central governments. This can particularly be observed in Union Territories where the Lieutenant Governor, with more powers, may become a means of central government intervention.

Oaths and Resignation

The Governor of a state takes the oath of office from the Chief Justice of that respective state and submits their resignation to the President of India.

Powers of the Governor

The Governor's powers can be categorized into four main areas: Legislative, Executive, Judicial, and Financial powers, as detailed below:

Legislative Powers

Despite not being a member of either house of the State Legislature, the Governor holds significant powers and responsibilities in the legislative domain.

  • The Governor can convene meetings of the State Legislature's Houses (or both Houses if it's a bicameral legislature) at times and locations of their choosing, ensuring that the gap between the first and last session does not exceed six months. This helps maintain legislative balance.
  • They have the authority to prorogue one or both Houses and dissolve the Legislative Assembly. For instance, in March 1967, the Punjab Governor, Dr D.C. Pavate, prorogued the State Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) after the Speaker deferred it for two months on March 7, 1967, before considering the Budget. This was a crucial step to resolve a constitutional crisis in the State, and Governors have exercised this power on multiple occasions.
  • The Governor can address both Houses when they convene at the beginning of the first session after a General Election and at the start of each annual session.
  • Bills passed by the State Legislature require the Governor's consent. They can withhold consent and send the Bill (except Money Bills) back to the State Legislature for reconsideration. However, if the Legislature passes the Bill with or without amendments, the Governor must give their consent.
  • The Governor is authorized to reserve certain Bills for the President's approval. For example, Bills related to compulsory property acquisition or curtailing the powers of the High Court must be reserved for the President's assent.
  • They appoint individuals with expertise or practical experience in areas such as Literature, Art, Science, Co-operative Movement, and Social Service.
  • If the Governor finds the representation of the Anglo-Indian Community insufficient, they can nominate members to represent this community.
  • On the advice of the Election Commission, the Governor has the authority to decide on issues concerning the disqualification of any person from either House.
  • During the opening of the legislature, the Governor can issue ordinances if a situation necessitates it. These ordinances cease to be effective after about six weeks from the reassembly of the Legislature, or earlier if the Legislative Assembly passes a resolution against them with the consent of the Legislative Council. Governor's ordinances have specific limitations, particularly if they pertain to matters requiring the President's prior approval or approval after reservation, as the Governor cannot issue them without the President's guidance.
  • The Governor can also send messages and request updates from the House or Houses on a pending Bill or other matters.
  • They have the authority to temporarily suspend the State Assembly while advising the President on taking over the State Administration. This step is taken with the aim of restoring normal governance as soon as possible. Instances of this include actions by the Governor of Uttar Pradesh on June 13, 1973, and the Governor of Punjab on October 4, 1983.

Executive Powers

The Governor of a state in India possesses executive powers as outlined in the Indian Constitution:

  • The Governor has the authority to extend their influence to matters listed in the State List. In cases involving subjects listed in the Concurrent List, the Governor exercises control concurrently with the President's official advice.
  • They establish rules for the allocation of matters and portfolios within the State government among its Ministers.
  • The Governor can request information from the Chief Minister, who is obligated to provide information and explanations regarding all decisions made by their ministry.
  • The Governor can also demand that the Chief Minister present any decision made by an individual Minister to the Council of Ministers for consideration.
  • They have the power to appoint members of the Council of Ministers, based on the recommendations of various Ministers.
  • The President consults the Governor in the appointment of Judges to the state High Court.
  • The Governor is responsible for appointing Judges to the District Courts.
  • If the Governor believes that the Anglo-Indian community is not adequately represented in the Vidhan Sabha, they can nominate a member of this community to the state's Legislative Assembly.
  • In states with a bicameral legislature, the Governor has the authority to nominate individuals with expertise in areas such as literature, science, art, co-operative movements, and social service to the Legislative Council.
  • Similarly, the Governor can remove the Chief Minister or the Council of Ministers only when the Legislative Assembly passes a vote of no confidence, censures the Council of Ministers, or defeats a crucial measure. In essence, the Governor cannot act at their discretion, as the collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers to the Legislative Assembly is paramount [Article 164(2)]. The Supreme Court, in the case of S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, emphasized that when doubts arise regarding whether a ministry has lost the confidence of the House, the primary method of testing is through a vote on the floor of the House.

It is clear that the assessment of the strength of the Ministry is not left to the Governor. This fact was affirmed when the Governor of Uttar Pradesh dismissed Kalyan Singh's government on February 21, 1998, as 25 Members of the Legislative Assembly from the Lok Tantrik Congress and Janata Dal (Raja Ram) Group withdrew support, leaving it in the minority. Kalyan Singh refused to resign, and as a result, he was dismissed. The Governor did not allow him to seek a vote of confidence on the floor of the House. The Allahabad High Court, in a significant interim order, reinstated Kalyan Singh and left it to the Governor to call for a floor test of strength in the House.

Financial Powers

The financial powers of the Governor as enshrined in the Constitution are as follows:

  • No money Bill can be introduced in the Assembly without the Governor's recommendation.
  • The Governor has access to the Contingency Fund and can make withdrawals from it to meet unforeseen expenses, pending approval by the State Legislature.
  • Demands for grants can only be made upon the recommendation of the Governor.
  • Under Article 205, the Governor can request supplementary, additional, or excess grants from the State Legislature.
  • The Governor is responsible for ensuring that the annual financial report or budget of the State is presented before the House or Houses of the Legislature have reviewed it.
  • Amendments related to financial matters cannot be proposed without the consent or recommendations of the Governor, if changes are necessary.

Judicial Powers

The Governor's judicial powers are as follows:

  • According to Article 161, the Governor can grant pardons, reprieves, respites, or remissions of sentences. They can also suspend, remit, or commute the sentence of a person convicted of a criminal offense.
  • The President consults the Governor in the appointment of the Chief Justice of the High Court of the respective state.

Emergency Powers

Unlike the President of India, the Governor does not have emergency powers to address situations arising from external aggression or armed resistance [Article 352(1)]. However, the Governor can report to the President whenever they are satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the state's governance cannot be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution (Article 356). In such cases, the President assumes authority over the State Government. In practice, when a state is under President's Rule or when there is no clear majority of a political party, the Governor takes charge of the State Government.

Miscellaneous Provisions

The Governor plays a role in supervising the Auditor General's report on the state's income and expenditure. They also act as an agent of the President to oversee emergency situations and the imposition of President's Rule in a specific state.

Conclusion

The Governor of a state in India is not merely a symbolic figurehead. They have the authority to exercise several powers at their discretion, independent of the recommendations made by the state Chief Minister. The Governor serves as a crucial link between the Union and the state. They act as the President's representative in the region, both when serving as the nominal and constitutional head of the state during normal times and when taking on the role of the head of the state during the period of President's Rule. The Governor exercises discretion in informing the President about the declaration of an emergency in the state and can make judgments about whether there has been a breakdown of constitutional machinery. Thus, the Governor plays a significant role in the governance of a state in India.

The document Governor and his powers | Law Optional Notes for UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Law Optional Notes for UPSC.
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