States under non-BJP governance are building a narrative that governors appointed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are impeding the democratic functioning of their governments. Accusations surface, branding these governors as agents of the Central government and RSS.
Following the footsteps of West Bengal, Punjab, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and the Puducherry Union Territory, the Kerala government is the latest to approach the Supreme Court. They allege that Governor Arif Mohammed Khan is unnecessarily delaying the approval of bills passed by the state assembly, thus hindering the implementation of crucial welfare measures.
In Tamil Nadu, the DMK-led government, led by Chief Minister MK Stalin, is at loggerheads with Governor RN Ravi. The Governor’s remarks about the government’s performance have triggered a conflict, and his refusal to approve bills passed by the assembly adds to the already persisting conflict.
The Tamil Nadu government has taken the matter to the Supreme Court, arguing that Governor RN Ravi has positioned himself as a political rival to the State government. They claim this is obstructing the state legislative assembly’s ability to fulfil its duties, causing a constitutional deadlock between the Constitutional Head of the State and the elected government.
Furthermore, the state alleges that the governor’s inaction is causing a significant administrative slowdown by not signing remission orders, day-to-day files, appointment orders, and approving recruitment orders. The government claims this is creating an adversarial attitude and non-cooperation with the state administration.
The Tamil Nadu government has taken a significant legal step by filing a petition in the Supreme Court. They seek to define a time limit for the state’s Governor, RN Ravi, to clear bills passed by the state legislative assembly. The government alleges that the governor is obstructing the legislative process by unjustly delaying the consideration of bills, thus positioning himself as a political rival to the elected government.
Constitutional Understanding of Governor’s Role
The government’s petition highlights that the Constitution does not require the personal satisfaction of the Governor but rather a constitutional satisfaction in line with the cabinet system of government. This satisfaction is based on the advice of the council of ministers, who assist the governor in exercising his powers and functions.
Under Article 200 of the Constitution, the governor has various options when it comes to bills introduced in the state legislature. However, there are no specific time limits defined for the governor to make decisions, leading to concerns about potential delays in the legislative process.
Accusations of Impediments to University Appointments
In a significant move, the Tamil Nadu government filed a second petition in the Supreme Court on November 2. This petition accuses Governor RN Ravi of causing “impediments” in the appointment of Vice Chancellors to three major universities. The government claims that these obstacles have left the universities without proper supervision and have led to administrative challenges.
In response to the legal actions taken by the Tamil Nadu government, Annamalai, a prominent political figure, expressed his support for the Governor. He alleged that the government’s actions were an attempt to divert attention from issues related to law and order and an increase in corruption. Annamalai also highlighted that 12 out of 13 bills pertaining to universities sought to transfer the Governor’s powers as the Chancellor of universities to the Chief Minister, which, according to him, goes against the Constitution.
Ongoing Legal Battle
The legal battle between the Tamil Nadu government and the Governor continues, with both sides presenting their arguments and accusations. The key issue remains the need for clear time limits for the Governor to make decisions on bills, ensuring a more efficient legislative process in the state.
In a recent development in Tamil Nadu, the state government has filed a second petition with the Supreme Court on November 2, alleging that Governor RN Ravi has been causing significant delays in clearing important bills, thereby hindering the functioning of the Legislative Assembly. The government further accuses the Governor of creating obstacles in the appointment of Vice Chancellors for three major universities in the state, leaving these institutions without proper supervision and administrative leadership.
The petition highlights the contentious relationship between the Governor and the State government, with the Governor allegedly positioning himself as a political rival to the legitimately elected government. According to the petition, Governor Ravi has unjustly and excessively delayed the consideration of bills passed by the Legislative Assembly, thus impeding the government’s ability to carry out its legislative duties. Notably, there is no specific time limit defined in the Constitution for the Governor to make decisions on these bills.
Under Article 200 of the Constitution, the Governor has the authority to take several actions regarding bills introduced in the state legislature. These actions include giving assent to the bill, withholding assent, returning the bill for reconsideration with suggested changes, or reserving the bill for the President’s consideration. The latter option is exercised in cases where the bill poses a potential threat to the state High Court’s position or raises constitutional concerns.
The State government’s petition further invokes the constitutional framework governing the governor’s powers. It emphasises that the Governor’s decisions should be based on the “satisfaction” of the Council of Ministers, whose advice he generally follows in the exercise of his powers and functions. This legal perspective clarifies that the governor’s role is not one of personal satisfaction but one rooted in the principles of the Cabinet system of government.
However, the state government accuses Governor Ravi of exceeding his constitutional authority by causing delays in clearing bills and impeding the appointment of Vice Chancellors for universities. It contends that such actions are disrupting the normal functioning of vital state institutions and potentially violating the Constitution.
In response to these accusations, Governor Ravi has received support from the opposition party leader, Annamalai. Annamalai argued that the state government’s actions are an attempt to divert attention from their perceived shortcomings, including issues related to law and order and increasing corruption. Annamalai also points out that the state government introduced 13 bills related to universities, aimed at transferring the Governor’s powers as the Chancellor of these institutions to the Chief Minister. He asserts that these bills are against the Constitution since education falls under the concurrent list. Furthermore, the 13th bill concerning Siddha University is seen as a violation of Supreme Court orders.
In a recent and highly contentious incident, the Tamil Nadu state assembly witnessed a dramatic confrontation between Governor RN Ravi and Chief Minister MK Stalin. The incident unfolded in January of this year when Chief Minister Stalin accused the Governor of skipping parts of his speech during the assembly session and of violating the decorum of the assembly. Governor Ravi subsequently walked out of the assembly in response to the allegations.
The dispute took a political turn when the Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rallied behind Governor Ravi, condemning Chief Minister Stalin’s actions as “disrespectful and amateurish.” In particular, the BJP criticised the Chief Minister’s decision to move a resolution against the Governor while he was still seated in the House.
In a tweet, the Tamil Nadu BJP expressed its support for Governor Ravi and chastised the ruling DMK party. The tweet read, “For petty political gains, the @arivalayam govt brought shame to the house by disrupting the speech of the Honourable Governor, Thiru RN Ravi Avargal. Thiru Appavu, the speaker of the house, did not maintain neutrality. Intervening in the Governor’s address with a motion when he was still in the assembly is ‘disrespectful and amateurish.'”
The tweet also criticised the DMK’s apparent change in attitude towards the role of Governor. It stated, “DMK, in the past, glorified the role of the Governor if the Raj Bhavan remained a mute spectator and couldn’t digest our Honourable Governor Thiru RN Ravi performing his constitutional responsibility as one should!”
As tensions flared, a further incident occurred as Governor Ravi was leaving the assembly premises with his officials. Minister K Ponmudi allegedly shouted, “Poda Po,” a colloquial phrase meaning “go away,” in the third person singular, while waving his hands. This incident added to the acrimony surrounding the assembly session and drew attention to the escalating political hostilities.
The clash between the Governor and the Chief Minister, along with the involvement of the opposition BJP and the actions of Minister K Ponmudi, reflects the deep-seated political divisions and tensions within Tamil Nadu’s state assembly. The incident remains a subject of debate and discussion in the state’s political landscape, with both sides staunchly defending their positions and actions.
#WATCH | Chennai: Governor RN Ravi walks out of Tamil Nadu assembly after CM MK Stalin alleged Governor R N Ravi skipped certain parts of the speech & "has completely gone against the decorum of the assembly."
(Video Source: Tamil Nadu Assembly) pic.twitter.com/KGPmvRMQCu
— ANI (@ANI) January 9, 2023
DMK Leaders Criticise Governor RN Ravi and Threaten Him During NEET Protest
In the midst of a state-wide hunger strike organised by the student and medical wings of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu over the contentious National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) bill, strained relations and heated rhetoric have emerged. Youth Welfare Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin, the son of Chief Minister MK Stalin, strongly criticised Governor RN Ravi on August 20 for his refusal to clear the bill banning NEET (Undergraduate) in the state.
During his speech, Udhayanidhi Stalin made incendiary comments, stating, “His name is not RN Ravi but RSS Ravi. Let me ask the Governor, who are you? What authority do you have? You are just a postman. Resign from your post. Stand for elections in any constituency, meet the people, and tell them about your ideology; they will throw slippers at you. If you win, then I’ll listen to you and even support NEET.”
The fiery rhetoric did not stop there. A DMK party platform speaker went further, threatening, “In Tamil Nadu, if this man refuses to utter the name of Ambedkar, my forefather who gave the constitution to India, do I have the right to hit him with a slipper or not? Didn’t you take an oath in the name of the constitution? Wasn’t it Ambedkar, my grandfather, who wrote it? If you won’t say his name, you go to Kashmir. We ourselves will send an extremist. Let him gun him down.”
Adding to the provocative language, DMK organising secretary RS Bharathi commented, “We have several Sekar Babus with us. Even if our leader (Stalin) had made a slight gesture with his eyes, would the governor have gone home?” Bharathi emphasised that DMK members knew how to react in such situations and would have resorted to strong measures.
The situation escalated further when Deputy Secretary to the Governor, T. Sengottaian, reported facing vicious attacks using filthy abuses and threats to the Governor’s life, primarily from DMK and its allies during public meetings and through social media. These threats were allegedly aimed at intimidating the Governor and obstructing the discharge of his constitutional duties. Complaints made to the police reportedly yielded no significant action, according to Sengottaian’s complaint.
It’s worth noting that this episode is not an isolated incident. The DMK’s relationship with the Governor’s office has been strained, and the party has shown a propensity to react strongly when the Governor questions or comments on its functioning. This incident reflects the ongoing tensions between the elected government and the office of the Governor in Tamil Nadu.
In contrast, a similar situation unfolded in Puducherry, where then-Chief Minister V Narayanasamy had been demanding the removal of Kiran Bedi, the Lieutenant Governor, accusing her of interfering in the day-to-day administration and hindering the elected government’s functioning. This led to a sit-in protest by Narayanasamy in January. Kiran Bedi, who had frequent run-ins with the Puducherry government since her appointment in 2016, was unceremoniously removed in 2021, and the additional charge was given to Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararjan.
In April of this year, the Supreme Court observed that Governors should return bills “as soon as possible” in accordance with Article 200, while considering a similar petition filed by the State of Telangana against the Telangana Governor. This ruling underscores the importance of timely bill review by Governors and the ongoing challenges in the relationships between Governors and state governments.
Historical Precedents and Current Political Developments in India: A Closer Look at Governor Actions and Non-Cooperation with Central Agencies
India’s political landscape has been marked by historical events involving Governors’ actions, often underlining the complex relationships between state governments and the office of the Governor. Here, we revisit two significant instances from the past and discuss recent developments involving non-cooperation with central agencies.
1984 Andhra Pradesh Episode
In 1984, Andhra Pradesh Governor Ram Lal resigned from his post and returned to Delhi, bearing a rather inscrutable expression on his face. This resignation followed his contentious decision to dismiss the 20-month-old Telugu Desam ministry led by Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (NTR). The dismissal had been orchestrated, in a twist of political intrigue, by Nadendla Bhaskara Rao, a member of NTR’s own cabinet who had subsequently upstaged him and assumed the position of Chief Minister, with the support of the Congress party.
This episode remains etched in the annals of Indian political history as a prime example of the convoluted power dynamics that can unfold within state governments and their interactions with Governors.
2011 Karnataka Controversy
In 2011, Karnataka witnessed a constitutional conundrum when Governor H R Bhardwaj recommended the dismissal of the Yeddyurappa ministry and the imposition of President’s Rule. This move came in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Karnataka High Court’s ruling, which had previously disqualified 11 BJP rebel MLAs and five independents. These disqualifications were pertinent to the critical October 10, 2010, floor test in the Assembly.
This episode serves as a reminder of the delicate balance of power and the complexities surrounding state governments’ functioning and interactions with Governors, especially in times of political turmoil and legal challenges.
Contemporary Non-Cooperation Trend
In recent times, a noteworthy trend has emerged with ten non-BJP ruled states withdrawing their general consent for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate cases. These states include Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Punjab, Rajasthan, Telangana, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu. This development signals a growing inclination towards central agency non-cooperation, reflecting complex political dynamics.
Another recent instance of political defiance comes from Delhi, where the Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, a former Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, chose to skip an Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons. In a statement, he declared the summons as “motivated” and “bad in law,” raising questions about the legitimacy of the ED’s actions.
Critics argue that, had he been honest, he would have cooperated with the questioning. Instead, his decision to enter a hospital following court verdicts or ED and Income Tax raids is seen as a strategy to evade accountability.
This non-cooperation with central agencies and defiance of summons represent an emerging pattern in contemporary Indian politics, a departure from traditional norms. However, it is essential to remember that during the Congress government at the Centre, Governors were often accused of being manipulated as puppets to dismiss non-Congress state governments, underscoring the intricate and contentious history of Governor-state government relations in India.