Updated: May 8, 2010 01:40 IST

Governors can't be removed at Centre's whims, says Court

J. Venkatesan
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A view of the Supreme Court.
A view of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on Friday held that a Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he/she is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor can he/she be removed on the ground that the Union government has lost confidence in him/her.

A five-judge Constitution Bench, comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices S.H. Kapadia, R.V. Raveendran, B. Sudershan Reddy and P. Sathasivam was disposing of a petition filed by the former Member of Parliament, B.P. Singhal.

The Bench said that as a Governor was neither an employee nor agent of the Union government, it was rejecting the contention that a Governor could be removed if the Union government or the party in power lost ‘confidence' in him.

It held that a change in government at the Centre was not a ground for removal of Governors to make way for others favoured by the new government.

Writing the judgment, Justice Raveendran said, “What Article 156 (1) of the Constitution [under which a Governor holds office during the pleasure of the President] dispenses with is the need to assign reasons or the need to give notice, but the need to act fairly and reasonably cannot be dispensed with by Article 156(1).”

The Bench said:

“The President, in exercising power under Article 156(1), should act in a manner that is not arbitrary or unreasonable. In the event of challenge of withdrawal of the pleasure, the court will necessarily assume that it is for compelling reasons. Consequently, where the aggrieved person is not able to establish a prima facie instance of arbitrariness or mala fides in his removal, the court will refuse to interfere.

“However, where a prima facie case of arbitrariness or mala fides is made out, the court can require the Union government to produce records/material to satisfy itself that the withdrawal of pleasure was for good and compelling reasons. What constitutes good and compelling reasons would depend upon the facts of the case. Having regard to the nature of functions of the Governor in maintaining Centre-State relations, and the flexibility available to the government in such matters, it is needless to say that there will be no interference unless a very strong case is made out.”

The court said if the aggrieved person was able to demonstrate prima facie that his or her removal was arbitrary, mala fide, capricious or whimsical, it would call upon the Union government to disclose to it the material upon which the President took the decision to withdraw the pleasure. If the government did not disclose any reason, or if the reasons disclosed were found to be irrelevant, arbitrary, whimsical, or mala fide, it would interfere in such a decision.

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