The Supreme Court on Friday asked the office of Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan to read up the court’s latest judgment holding Governors responsible for acting within the four corners of the State Legislature without flexing a non-existent veto power over Bills presented to them for assent.
The Supreme Court judgment, in a petition filed by Punjab against its Governor Banwarilal Purohit, clarified that a Governor cannot indefinitely sit on Bills. In case of withholding assent, the Governor should return the Bill as soon as possible to the House with a message assigning reasons for his lack of consent.
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The judgment held that the Governor cannot withhold consent in case the House repassed the Bill with or without amendments.
“The Punjab judgment will entirely cover our case… He [Governor] has been sitting on our Bills for two years,” senior advocate K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Kerala, told a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud.
The Chief Justice said the Kerala Governor’s office should go through the judgment in the Punjab case and make up their minds on the future course of action.
“The Governor’s secretary should look at the judgment and see what he has to say,” said Chief Justice Chandrachud, scheduling the case for November 28.
In a previous hearing, Mr. Venugopal and advocate C.K. Sasi said delaying consent on Bills had grown to be an “endemic” among Governors of certain States.
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Mr. Venugopal said the Bills were pending for eight to 23 months. The Governor was a part of the State Legislature under Article 168. The Governor cannot act in a way which was contrary to the wishes of the elected representatives of the people, the senior lawyer had argued.
Article 168 spells out that “for every State, there shall be a Legislature which shall consist of the Governor and two Houses to be known respectively as the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly”.
Kerala said the Governor was trying to “defeat the rights of the people” of the State by indefinitely sitting on crucial Bills, especially those addressing post-COVID public health concerns.
The State said the arbitrary show of lack of urgency by the Governor violated the fundamental right to life of the people of Kerala.
Kerala said eight key Bills were currently pending with the Governor.
“Many of the Bills involve immense public interest, and provide for welfare measures which would stand deprived and denied to the people of the State to the extent of the delay… Grave injustice is being done to the people of the State, as also to its representative democratic institutions,” the Kerala petition said.