Thursday, March 30th, 2023 13:38:14

Role Of Governor In Indian Federal Structure

Updated: August 14, 2010 11:28 am

The offices of the President, Prime Minister, Governor and Chief Minister are very important in Indian Federation. Every effort should be made by the incumbents not to enter into the domain of the other. The Constitution has given each institution its domain and an effort should be made to respect the domain of the other. The basic reason of Indian democracy and federal structure, being institutionalised is the faith of people in the Constitution. The change-over of the governments takes place through constitutional methods, that is elections and majority rule (maybe through coalition). Though elections are very important yet system need not be “electionocracy”. We have accepted the principle of ‘protest’, which is against the wrong policies of the government and is operated upon by the pressure groups and political parties and not with the above functionary chiefs. Indian Constitution is the largest such document of the world. It is more so because it incorporates the Constitution for the states also.

                The powers of the President and the Governor in respect of ‘aid and advise’ theory are more or less the same though the President has more powers than those of the Governor. Both have the power to appoint and remove the government heads and the ministers in their domain on the recommendations of the government heads concerned. This provision was made keeping in view the importance of the elected governments. But the practice of active politicians being appointed as Governors could not suit Indian polity. The controversial role of the Governors like Ram Lal, Romesh Bhandari, Buta Singh, Rizvi, Gulshan Ahmad and Zamu, to quote a few, has made history and their incumbents to learn a lesson. This resulted in straining the relations between the centre and the states. The Sarkaria Commission and recently the Punchhi Committee gave some suggestions, which are basically the same. While a few recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission were partly accepted by the NDA government, the same were overlooked by the present government.

                Rajiv Gandhi appointed RAW and intelligence officers as Governors but they became controversial. Some police officers were also appointed and they tried to act with restrain. Once a Governor forms a government, he does not have the power to remove it unless the Chief Minister recommends it, or it loses majority on the floor of the House. The Governor becomes apolitical after he administers them the oath of office. The ‘aid and advise’ theory under Art 163(1) is binding on both incumbents at least after the judgment of Supreme Court in Shamsher Singh Vs State of Punjab (1974). A federation would be a success if the Governor does not interfere in the work of the government. He does not criticise his own government in public. This is why till HR Bhardwaj, no Governor went to the press.

                Recently, the Governor of Karnataka, HR Bhardwaj made certain briefings to the press against a few ministers of Karnataka government. These are the same ministers against whom the Congress legislative party staged a dharna in the Vidhan Sabha. Neither is there a specific power vested with the Governor to go to the press as happened in the present case, nor is there any precedence. It gives an impression, in view of the timing, that there was a nexus between the Governor and the Congress party in Karnataka. Well if one feels that the Governor was very keen on this issue, he had the option to send a message under Art 174(2) (which is akin to Art 84 with the President) to the House to show his concern, which he did not do. Side-by-side he has a duty to see that the atmosphere of the Vidhan Sabha is not vitiated which is his priority. But the tragedy is that a Governor, who has been very active and had remained a minister of law in the previous Congress government and is allegedly associated with controversial matters like those of Quattrocchi and Anderson, Operation Blue Star, and the like, would try to be active and go back to the mainstream politics as a minister. Probably HR Bhardwaj’s action smacks of this.

                The question arises whether this was the only way to come back to active politics. I feel he should have worked deligently and showed his keenness to become minister to the Prime Minister and tried to follow in the footsteps of SK Shinde and SM Krishna or he could have consistently sent fortnightly or monthly dispatches to the centre as Shri Prakash, UN Trivedi, Bhim Sen Sachar, NV Gadgil, Yogya Dutta—to quote a few— used to send. He had another option to act like Giani Zail Singh who administered the oath of the office of a union ministry to SS Ahluwalia (who was the leader of shouting brigade of Rajiv Gnadhi against Giani) and later on pressured the PM to remove him from the office, maybe for few days. Patience and timely actions should be the quality of a Governor as was witnessed in TN Chaturvedi, the former Governor of Karnataka.

                But HR Bhardwaj is no exception to the tradition of being controversial Governors, who are always in a hurry to grab power. He acted as an active opposition leader, prepared the Congress leaders for a dharna so that the attack should be from two sides, it seems. We have examples—in Punjab, a Governor appointed by NDA government toed the line of Congress but when his work was over, he was removed. It has generally been seen that the union government does not directly control the Governors but appoints pliable persons and develop alternate channels to approach the Governors against popularly elected opposite party’s governments. There is no dearth of Governors who will go to any length to keep the ruling party in good humour. They use their appointments and continuation to their office only to please the Centre. HR Bhardwaj is one such example. As a former law minister, he must be in the know of his powers. If people of this type are continued to be appointed, the federal structure of the country would be in the doldrums.

 By Dr RN Pal

The writer is former Professor & Head, Deptt of Political Science and former Pro-Vice Chancellor at Punjab University, Patiala

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