‘Need to act fairly and reasonably cannot be dispensed with by Article 156(1)’

Removal of a Governor cannot be done in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner. A Governor of a State cannot be removed on the ground that he/she is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the party in power at the Centre.

Removing the Governor after change of government will be against the spirit of the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2010 that a change in government at the Centre was not a ground for removal of Governors to make way for those favoured by the new government. Such a removal could be done only for special and compelling reasons.

A five-judge Constitution Bench had 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 President, in exercising power under Article 156(1), should act in a manner that is not arbitrary or unreasonable. Where a prima facie case of arbitrariness or mala fides is made out, the court can require the Union government to produce records/materials to satisfy itself that the withdrawal of pleasure was for good and compelling reasons. What will constitute good and compelling reasons would depend upon the facts of the case,” the Bench had said.

According to the court, 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 Union government did not disclose any reason, or if the reasons disclosed were found to be irrelevant, arbitrary, whimsical, or mala fide, it would interfere with such a decision.

The previous UPA government, which removed some Governors soon after assuming office in 2009, took the stand that if after an election a party came to power with a social and economic agenda and if it was found that the Governor of a State was not in sync but would rather be antithetical to its policies, then it could remove such a Governor. The government asserted that it had the right to remove a Governor without any attribution or fault if it did not have confidence in him or her. It had said, “If the views of a Governor came in conflict with the national policy, there could be a ground for his removal.” The court, however, rejected this stand.

Quoting this judgment, senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor-General K.V. Viswanathan told The Hindu that the high office of the Governor would be brought into disrepute if it was subjected to the “spoils system” under which the party in power after winning the election rewards its loyalists. He said the “pleasure” mentioned in Article 156 was not whim and caprice of the party in power and political considerations should be kept out.

However, senior advocate M.N. Krishnamani differed with him and said, “For proper governance, a Governor can be removed from office.” For example, he said, “In a bigger State like Uttar Pradesh, if the views of the Governor are not in tune with the policies of the new government then he/she may create problems for the Centre.

  • Apex court had rejected previous UPA govt. stand

  • “Need to act fairly cannot be dispensed with by Article 156(1)”