Time To Have Conduct Rules For Governors
Allegations have been made against the present Gujarat Governor, a lady from Rajasthan, that she used “forged documents” to acquire a piece of land in her native state Rajasthan.
According to the allegations made, Gujarat Governor has shown herself as a farm labourer working for 14-16 hours a day and has taken a piece of land worth crores of rupees. Kisan Samuhik Krishi Sahkari Samiti, which was formed in 1953 to promote the collective farming in the state, in a resolution claimed that they were the actual tillers of the land. They said that during these years they had spent nearly 16 hours a day, As land of the society was acquired by JDA, they should be given compensation in the form of commercial and residential land.
In his order in first week of May, 2012, The Registrar of Cooperative Societies, Rajasthan, rejected this claim and stated that since Kamla Beniwal, former Deputy Chief Minister of the state, had been a Minister for nearly forty years, “How could she spare 16 hours a day to till the land?” He also said that none of the member of the society ever tilled the land. He not only refused to accept the claim or affidavit of these members, including Beniwal, but sent a letter to Jaipur Development Authority advising it not to allot commercial and residential land to them in lieu of land the society surrendered to JDA.
After going through the orders, The Cooperative Department of Rajasthan government refused to the above orders. Instead the officials concerned were transferred on May 10, 2012, a week after rejecting the claim of the members of the society.
So, all talk of the principled stand or norms, or having people of probity, for the appointments of the Governors is a hog wash. It would be wrong only to find fault with the conduct of the Jharkhand or Goa Governors, as something unique and unheard of.
They had equally distinguished or undistinguished predecessors, depending upon, from which side of the fence, you see. GD Tapase, as the then Governor of Haryana denied the Chief Minister’s post to Devi Lal, the then leader of the largest party, in 1982. The Raj Bhawan, which denied Devi Lal the top post, appointed Bhajan Lal as the Chief Minister on instructions from New Delhi. Similarly, Governor Ram Lal was used to unseat NT Rama Rao. The TDP leader, NTR brought the entire legislature party to New Delhi and paraded them before the President.
The Main Opposition party has demanded an inquiry by a sitting High Court judge into Beniwal’s conduct. A leader from that party said: “The most shocking fact in this story is that how one person holding a constitutional post can be working as a farm labourer?” However, the Governor of Gujrat has denied the allegations, though there is a clear order of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies, substantiating the allegations against the members of the Cooperative Society concerned, of which the Governor of Gujrat is one of them.
However, it is a fact that all those who join any political party, look for loaves and fishes, as and when, it comes to power. As per the Constitution of India, the Governor of a state is expected to act as an impartial referee. The people expect the constitutional appointees to function impartially and have an unquestioned record and background.
Quite often the expectations of the common man and the party in power are different. Though a Governor is appointed for a term of five years, in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Central Government has said that the Governor of a state holds the office during on the pleasure of the President. The pleasure of the President of India is not that of the incumbent holder of the office of the President, but that of the government of the day.
In other words, the holder of the office of the Governor, though it is a constitutional office, does not have any security of tenure. Whereas even a Class Four employee of the government cannot be removed arbitrarily, except by the procedure laid down in law. The Governor of a state has been equated with almost a daily wager, who can be sent packing, if his actions are not to the liking of his political masters or the government of the day. So far, the office of the Governor of a state, barring a few exceptions, has been packed with loyal party men, who could not be accommodated in the government, or with unwanted party men, who would otherwise be troublesome if not given a lollipop of a sinecure of a Governor’s office or as a reward to the faithful bureaucrats.
Central Government had set up a Commission under Justice Sarkaria to advise about Centre State relations. After accepting its recommendations, the inter-state council had decided in May, 2004 that a code of conduct for the gubernatorial appointments should bar the governors from entering active public life-political life, after they lay down their office. They however can be appointed for a second term.
Another of the Commission’s recommendations, accepted by the inter-state council was, that the appointment of Governors would be in consultation with the respective state government. There is no legal sanctity behind any recommendations, unless they are converted into the law, which probably no political party would agree to. It is within the ambit of the incumbent Government to reject the same. Governor’s office has always been looked upon, as that of an agent, or a handyman or a handywoman, who will interfere in the affairs of the state government, on behalf of the Central Government or anticipate its wishes and act as such.
In all fairness to the the founding fathers of the Constitutions, there have been several occasions for the last six decades of the working of the Constitution, which have proved that these provisions were far-sighted. There have been cases where the elected Chief Ministers grossly misused their position. However, there have also been occasions, where the Governors have not even blinked at such happenings.
However, with the change in the Central Government, even these harmless recommendations have been given a go bye, as can be seen from the appointments of some individuals as active Ministers, despite their having held the Governor’s office.
The ruling parties adopt all possible ways to retain power and cover up the tracks of their adherents, damned be the values and morality. Convenience rather than any ethical value guides the working of a fairly good number of Governors. The holders of the Governor’s office must bear in mind that there can be plenty of wrong reasons to do the right thing as there are stars in the sky. There might even be more than one legitimate right reason. But there is never a right reason to do the wrong thing. They should also remember that if they have integrity, nothing else matters. If they do not have integrity, nothing else matters.
By Joginder Singh
(The author is former Director, CBI)