R.N. Ravi becomes first Tamil Nadu Governor to skip portions of text of address to the Assembly

Neighbouring Kerala witnessed it at least thrice since January 1969 when Governor V. Viswanathan declined to read out critical references to the Centre

January 09, 2023 09:53 pm | Updated January 10, 2023 04:52 pm IST - CHENNAI

Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi walks out of the Assembly in Chennai, on January 9, 2023.

Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi walks out of the Assembly in Chennai, on January 9, 2023. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi skipping certain portions of the text of his customary address to the Assembly on Monday can be called the first of its kind in the State.

Neighbouring Kerala witnessed it at least thrice since January 1969.  At that time, Governor V. Viswanathan declined to read out critical references to the Centre. When Chief Minister E.M.S. Namboodiripad of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) stood up and drew his attention to the skipped portion, the Governor replied he had already told him that he would not read out the portion.

The southern State witnessed two more instances —  Sukhdev Singh Kang in June 2001 (when A.K. Antony of the Congress was Chief Minister)  and Justice (retired) P. Sathasivam in January 2018 (when Pinarayi Vijayan of the CPI-M was the Chief Minister). In 2001, the then Assembly Speaker Vakkom B. Purushothaman ruled that the printed version of the Governor’s address would hold good.

However, what is remembered more among observers of the functioning of the legislature is that in March 1969, the then Governor of West Bengal Dharma Vira skipped a few paragraphs in his address to the joint session of the West Bengal legislature and Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee of the Bangla Congress headed the second United Front ministry.

This time too, the Chief Minister made a “feeble protest” and asked the Governor to read the text of the address in full, according to a report published by The Hindu on March 7, 1969.  In February 2017, Tripura saw Tathagata Roy doing what Dharma Vira did and Manik Sarkar of the CPI (M) was the Chief Minister. 

Salient features

As for Tamil Nadu, in June 2011, after Jayalalithaa became Chief Minister, Governor Surjit Singh Barnala presented only the salient features mentioned in the text of his address while Speaker D. Jayakumar read out the Tamil version of the address in full. At that time, Barnala had cited his health as the reason for his act.

But, it was in January 2003 that a controversy erupted over the Governor’s address. After the then Governor P.S. Ramamohan Rao completed his 50-minute address in English, the national anthem was played, marking the end of the day’s business.

The Tamil version was completely skipped.  While the Opposition had criticised Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for the break in convention, Speaker K. Kalimuthu justified the decision by saying it was done to “save the time” of the Governor and MLAs. 

As regards Monday’s developments, when asked whether a motion could be passed on the day of presentation of the Governor’s address as the day’s event could not be called a sitting of the Assembly, going by the position articulated in Practice and Procedure of Parliament by M.N. Kaul and S.L. Shakdher, an official in the Assembly secretariat concedes the point.

He also observes that this was why the relaxation of Rule 17 (Observance of order during Governor’s address) of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly Rules was carried out for enabling the passage of the resolution. The official recalls that on January 23, 2017, when the then Governor Vidyasagar Rao made his address to the House in the morning, a Bill on jallikattu was tabled in the House later in the day and adopted too.

This article has been corrected for a factual error. The report published in The Hindu was from March 7, 1969, not 1967 as mentioned earlier.
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