Power of Governor to dismiss a Minister | Appointing authority is also dismissing authority, said Supreme Court in 1979

The 1979 verdict, delivered by a five-judge Bench led by the then Chief Justice of India Y.V. Chandrachud, also stated that “a Minister is appointed or dismissed by the Governor and is, therefore, subordinate to him whatever be the nature and status of his constitutional functions”.

Updated - June 30, 2023 03:50 pm IST

Published - June 30, 2023 07:39 am IST - CHENNAI

A view of Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi. File

A view of Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

While there are hardly any authoritative judicial pronouncements on the power of a Governor to dismiss a Minister, an obiter dictum (judges’ opinion on an issue not directly related to the case) in M. Karunanidhi versus Union of India decided on February 20, 1979 states that an appointing authority would also be the dismissing authority.

To get today’s top stories from the State in your inbox, subscribe to our Tamil Nadu Today newsletter here

The 1979 case was filed related to the prosecution initiated against Karunanidhi for allegedly receiving pecuniary advantage of ₹4 lakh to ₹5 lakh in wheat purchase from Punjab when he was the Chief Minister between 1971 and 1976. He had approached the Supreme Court to get the prosecution quashed after having lost before the Madras High Court.

One of the two prime arguments raised by his counsel during the hearing of the appeal was that he could not be prosecuted under any Section of the Indian Penal Code or the Prevention of Corruption Act because being the Chief Minister of the State at the relevant time he was not a ‘public servant’ as defined in Section 21(12) of the IPC.

The argument was that by virtue of the position that the appellant enjoyed as Chief Minister, there was no relationship of master and servant between him and the government. He was only acting as a constitutional functionary and, therefore, could not be described as a ‘public servant’ as contemplated under Section 21(12) of the IPC.

A five-judge Bench, led by the then Chief Justice of India, Y.V. Chandrachud, P.N. Bhagwati, N.L. Untwalia, Syed Murtaza Fazal Ali and R.S. Pathak, did not concur with his submissions and dismissed the appeal. The judges held that the Chief Minister would incontrovertibly be a public servant since he/she receives salary from the government treasury.

While arriving at the conclusion, the judges wrote that there was no necessity to probe the differences between the powers conferred on the Governor under the Constitution and the Government of India Act “because the Constitution clearly lays down that the Governor appoints the Chief Minister and being the appointing authority he is also the dismissing authority”.

The judges went on to write, “We are not at all concerned in the instant case as to the circumstances under which the Governor can appoint or dismiss the Chief Minister. Once it is conceded that the Governor appoints the Chief Minister who is paid a salary according to a statute made by the legislature from the government funds, the Chief Minister becomes a person in the pay of the Government so as to fall squarely within Clause (12) of Section 21 of the Penal Code.”

The verdict, penned by Justice Fazal Ali, also stated, “A Minister is appointed or dismissed by the Governor and is, therefore, subordinate to him whatever be the nature and status of his constitutional functions.”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.