Kerala Government and the Governor of the State, Arif Mohammed Khan, have locked horns as the latter refuses to give assent to the bills that have been passed by the incumbent government in the State. The counsel of government of Kerala said that the Constitutional protection which the Governor enjoys as per Clause 361 is not unlimited. The governor of Kerala’s prayer states that the Governor is liable to consider the bills on a time-bound basis and alleged that the Governor failed in shouldering the Constitutional powers and duties and that the Governor should take up the pending bills sans further delay.
Kerala Assembly passed a Bill to remove the Governor as the Chancellor of eight varsities in the state. The University Law (Amendment) (No.2) sought to amend eight Acts relating to different varsities to remove the Governor as the ex-officio Chancellor of the varsities in the state and authorise GoK to appoint a Chancellor as they select. It is reported that there is a discrepancy in the matter owing to a letter from the Chief Minister to the Raj Bhavan reportedly stating that the Governor would continue to serve as the Chancellor of the varsities. In the meantime, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had briefed the media at a press conference in which he said that there is no practice of the CM visiting the Governor and briefing him about the bills. He was indirectly saying that the visit of his cabinet colleagues and briefing the Governor about the bills pending before him was enough.
On the other hand, according to the reports, Governor recently told during a TV interview that “I am not a rubber stamp, it is the duty of the Chief Minister to give timely updates, on the governmental activities, to Raj Bhavan. I won’t succumb to any sort of pressure. The GoK can go ahead with their decision to approach the Supreme Court regarding the unsigned bills”.
In the mean time, Raj Bhavan said, the Governor has obtained legal opinion after the SC’s observation in the Telengana issue; Raj Bhavan is confident that Governor is in advantageous position in connection with the legal and technical issues with respect to the pending legislations; the view of the central government is significant too. VD Satheesan, Congress leader and the LoP in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, described the GoK’s SC move as an attempt to the divert the people’s attention from the burning issues the people do face. Congress Pradesh Committee president maintained that GoK’s SC move against the Governor is a wrong step.
The Governor and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) have been in bad terms on various issues. Governor’s stand towards his ‘policy declaration address’ in 2022 was an important issue. Arif Mohammed Khan was quite unhappy when the assembly passed a unanimous resolution against Citizenship Amendment Act and several other matters. The issue over pending bills began as the GoK tried to stop the Governor from exercising his power in appointing Vice Chancellors for the universities in the state.
The Assembly passed legislations with respect to the Governor’s power to appointment of VCs and later removing as the Chancellor of Universities. Governor was also unhappy about the Bill to curtail the powers of Lok Ayukta. The bill passed in August 2022 stipulates that if Lok Ayukta passes a verdict against the chief minister in a corruption case, the Assembly would be the competent authority to decide on it, instead of the Governor. The appellate authority for the ministers would be the Chief Minister; for the members of the Assembly, it is the Speaker. The Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) staged a walk out before the bill came for vote.