Plea to remove Governor not maintainable, says High Court

The Madras High Court on Friday held as not maintainable a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to the Centre to remove Governor Banwarilal Purohit for not taking a decision on State Cabinet’s September 2018 recommendation to release all seven convicts involved in former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha dismissed the petition filed by M. Kannadasan of Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, on the ground that a court of law was not empowered to issue such a direction when the Constitution states that a Governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.

The judges pointed out that Article 156 lays down the term of office of Governor. The provision states that a Governor would hold office during the pleasure of the President or until he/she resigns his post though the tenure as such for those holding the constitutional post would be for five years or until a successor enters the office. The Bench recorded that the PIL petitioner had insisted upon the removal of the Governor on grounds of arbitrariness, mala fide and partisan attitude, on the issue of releasing the seven convicts, “for the reason that he was a member of a particular political party [before assuming office] and a sympathiser of an organisation.”

The judges recalled the Supreme Court verdict in the B.P. Singhal versus Union of India (2010) said: “A Governor is neither an employee nor an agent of the Union Government... Like the President, Governors are expected to be apolitical, discharging purely constitutional functions, irrespective of their earlier political background.

“Governors cannot be politically active. Reputed elder statesmen, able administrators and eminent personalities with maturity and experience are expected to be appointed as Governors. While some of them may come from a political background, once they are appointed as Governors, they owe their allegiance and loyalty to the Constitution and not to any political party.”

The apex court went on to state: “A Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre. Governors need not be in sync with the policies of the Union Government. They are not required to subscribe to the ideology of the party in power at the Centre.”

In the same judgment, it was also held that judicial review of withdrawal of pleasure was limited in the case of a Governor and that only when a prima facie case of arbitrariness of mala fide was made out, could the court require the Centre to produce materials to satisfy itself that the withdrawal of pleasure was for good and compelling reasons.

Further, when S. Nalini, one of the seven convicts, filed a writ petition in the High Court last year seeking a direction to the Governor to accept the Cabinet recommendation and order her release from prison, a Division Bench of Justices R. Subbiah and C. Saravanan had held that no such direction could be issued to the Governor.

That Bench had held that Article 361 of the Constitution insulates the Governor from being questioned or made answerable before any court with respect to discharge of his duties. Therefore, the present plea seeking a direction to the Centre to remove Mr. Purohit from office could not be entertained, the Bench led by Justice Sathyanarayanan said.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 8:15:30 am |