Governor Arif Mohammed Khan took exception to the State government’s move to reissue ordinances instead of getting the executive orders ratified by the Assembly.
The government had sent Mr. Khan 11 ordinances for repromulgation. They included the controversial Kerala Lok Ayukta, 1999, amendment ordinance, and the Kerala Cooperative Societies Act, 2022, amendment ordinance.
The Opposition had petitioned Mr. Khan not to sign the ordinances. It portrayed the Lok Ayukta amendment a “Machiavellian” bid by the government to “defang” the Ombudsman to forestall anti-corruption inquiries against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Consequently, Mr. Khan purportedly dragged his feet on approving the ordinance until he got a clarification from the government.
Later, the Opposition asked Mr. Khan to refrain from enacting the cooperative societies ordinance. It saw the executive order as a Left Democratic Front ploy to undermine the democratic functioning of cooperative societies with an eye on controlling Milma.
On Monday, Mr. Khan told reporters in New Delhi that the government should elaborate on the rationale for repromulgating the ordinances repeatedly. The government had sent him a set of executive decrees to re-promulgate on the eve of his visit to New Delhi.
He said he would not rubber stamp the government’s demand blindly. “I have to apply my mind,” he said.
Mr. Khan also made the case that the Constituent Assembly had envisaged the option of issuing an ordinance instead of passing a law as an emergency provision. The government could issue executive orders only when the Assembly was not in session. Hence, executive orders had an expiry date.
“The Supreme Court had ruled (in January 2017) that re-promulgation of ordinances tantamount to subversion of the democratic legislative process,” he said.
He said the administration was constitutionally bound to uphold the law-making function of the Legislature. “As Governor, I am oath-bound to ensure that the business of State is carried in accordance with the Constitution and law. I have to follow the principle in letter and spirit to insist others do the same,” he said.
Mr. Khan’s words appeared to assume some significance, given widespread speculation that the government contemplated an executive order to curb the Governor’s power as Chancellor, especially Raj Bhavan’s role in selecting university Vice Chancellors.
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary V.P. Joy called on Mr. Khan in New Delhi. There was also an unconfirmed report that Mr. Khan had sought an explanation from Mr. Vijayan about re-issuing the ordinances.
Law Minister P. Rajeeve said the government had not arrogated the responsibility of passing laws to itself by circumventing the Assembly. It viewed ordinances only as an emergency measure.