Kerala moves Supreme Court against Governor for the second time in two weeks

Kerala govt. says the Governor’s lack of urgency on crucial pending Bills “defeats the right of the people of Kerala”

November 08, 2023 01:18 pm | Updated 02:52 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Kerala recently informed the Supreme Court that Governor Arif Mohammed Khan continues to be unfazed even after the State moved the top court against him. (File photo)

Kerala recently informed the Supreme Court that Governor Arif Mohammed Khan continues to be unfazed even after the State moved the top court against him. (File photo) | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Kerala on November 8, 2023 (Wednesday) moved the Supreme Court for the second time against Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, accusing him of 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, represented by advocate C.K. Sasi, said the arbitrary show of lack of urgency by the Governor violates the fundamental right to life of the people of Kerala.

“The conduct of the Governor in keeping Bills pending for long and indefinite periods of time is manifestly arbitrary and also violates Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution. Additionally, it defeats the rights of the people of the State of Kerala under Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution, by denying them the benefits of welfare legislation enacted by the State Assembly.”

The 461-page special leave petition appeals a Kerala High Court judgment of November 30 last year, which refused to fix a time limit for the Governor to deal with Bills presented to him under Article 200 of the Constitution.

Kerala submitted that the first proviso to Article 200, which governs the conduct of the Governor when a Bill is presented to him for assent, mandates for immediate consideration and action. The Governor can either declare his assent to the Bill, return it with a message to the House or refer it to the President. However, the Article requires the Governor to act “as soon as possible”, that is within a reasonable time.

Eight key Bills pending

Kerala said eight key Bills were currently pending with the Governor. Some of these Bills have been held back for over two years. Senior advocate K.K. Venugopal, appearing in the case for the State, recently informed the Supreme Court that the Governor continues to be unfazed even after Kerala’s having moved the top court against him.

“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 (i.e. the State Legislature and the Executive), by the Governor by keeping Bills pending for long periods of time, including three Bills for longer than two years. The Governor appears to be of the view that granting assent or otherwise dealing with Bills is a matter entrusted to him in his absolute discretion, to decide whenever he pleases. This is a complete subversion of the Constitution,” the petition said.

Besides Kerala, other non-BJP ruled States have also approached the Supreme Court against their Governors for “unreasonably” delaying the passing of crucial Bills into law.

Their pending Bills too cover sectors such as public health, higher education, Lokayukta and cooperative societies.

Tamil Nadu has accused Governor R.N. Ravi of toying with the citizens’ mandate by sitting on the Bills by neither assenting nor returning them. It said the Governor has positioned himself as a “political rival” who has caused a “constitutional deadlock” by simply sitting on the Bills for months together.

Punjab has complained that several Bills passed by the Vidhan Sabha were stuck with the Governor, threatening to bring the administration to a “grinding halt”.

The Supreme Court had to intervene in April for Telangana Governor to clear Bills pending since September 2022, compelling advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the State, to submit that legislatures in Opposition-ruled States were at the mercy of the Governors, who had become a law unto themselves.

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