Chief Minister MK Stalin took the lead in addressing the assembly, proposing a resolution to reconsider the 10 bills that had been returned by the governor. He highlighted the governor’s lack of explanation for withholding assent, stating, “Without giving any reasons, Ravi had returned the Bills.” A special sitting was convened to pass the bills once again, with the assembly expressing dissatisfaction over the governor’s actions.
The bills, spanning various departments such as Law, Agriculture, and Higher Education, were originally passed by the House, only to be sent back by Ravi on November 13th, citing “I withhold Assent” without providing any reasons.
The bills in question granted special powers to the state for the appointment of vice-chancellors of universities. Among them was a bill from the previous AIADMK regime to change the name of Tamil Nadu Fisheries University to Tamil Nadu Dr J Jayalalithaa Fisheries University, along with a provision to include a government nominee in the selection panel for the appointment of the vice-chancellor.
Chief Minister Stalin criticised Governor Ravi, accusing him of obstructing the government’s initiatives and insinuating that non-BJP-ruled states were being targeted through governors, potentially influenced by the central government. Stalin emphasised the gravity of the situation, stating, “If a ‘power’ that can stop the House from enacting legislation emerges, it will severely hamper democracy.”
Stalin further questioned the governor’s actions, asserting that withholding assent without providing reasons was unacceptable. He referred to Article 200 of the Constitution of India, stating that if the bills were passed again and presented to the governor for assent, the governor should not withhold assent, as per the constitutional provisions.
The Chief Minister drew parallels with a recent Supreme Court order in the Punjab government’s case against a governor for not clearing bills. The Supreme Court emphasised that in a parliamentary democracy, real power resides in the elected representatives, while the governor, as a nominee of the President, is a “titular head.” However, the court also criticised the Tamil Nadu government, stating that keeping the assembly in suspended animation indefinitely amounted to defeating the Constitution.
The assembly’s decision to re-adopt the bills did not sit well with the opposition parties. In response to the disparaging remarks made by Chief Minister Stalin against Governor Ravi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staged a walkout. Additionally, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chose to exit the assembly before the bills were re-adopted, expressing their disagreement with the proceedings.
The political tussle between the Tamil Nadu government and Governor RN Ravi adds to the growing list of conflicts between state governments and governors across the country. As the situation unfolds, it remains to be seen how the central government and the constitutional authorities respond to the ongoing power struggles at the state level.