The Supreme Court, in a 27-page judgment, has clarified that the rejection of a Bill by a Governor does not mean its death.
Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, writing for a three-judge Bench, held that a law proposed by a State legislature is not extinguished merely because the Governor refuses to sign his assent.
The judgment explains that the substantive portion of Article 200 of the Constitution provides the Governor with three options when presented with a Bill — consent to the proposed law, withhold consent, or reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President.
The first proviso of Article 200 goes on to say that the Governor may send the withheld Bill, if it is not a Money Bill, back to the House as soon as possible with a message suggesting amendments or requesting the Assembly to re-consider the Bill or specific provisions of it.
The judgment holds that the first proviso does not offer the Governor a fourth contingency.
The court clarified that the Governor cannot choose between letting a Bill die after rejecting it and sending it back to the House for re-legislation.
The Chief Justice held that a Governor should necessarily return a Bill back to the House for re-legislation after deciding to withhold consent. The court held that the procedure enumerated in the first proviso was the mandatory follow-up to the Governor’s choice of withholding consent. Thus, the court has inextricably linked the withholding of consent with the return of the Bill to the House for reconsideration.
Further, the court had made it clear that the final word belongs to the legislature and not the Governor. That is, once the House re-passes the returned Bill, with or without amendments, the Governor has no choice but to grant consent.
“The Governor as the unelected Head of State would be in a position to virtually veto the functioning of the legislative domain by a duly elected legislature by simply declaring that assent is withheld without any further recourse. Such a course of action would be contrary to fundamental principles of a constitutional democracy based on a Parliamentary pattern of governance. The Governor is under Article 168 a part of the legislature and is bound by the constitutional regime,” the top court held.
The judgment, based on a petition filed by the Punjab government against its Governor, bolsters Tamil Nadu’s push for gubernatorial assent to 10 Bills which were “re-passed” and returned to Governor R.N. Ravi for his assent.