If Governor withholds nod, it means Bill is dead: Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi

The Governor says foreign funds were behind Sterlite and Kudankulam protests

April 07, 2023 01:04 am | Updated 01:43 am IST - CHENNAI

Governor addressing civil services aspirants during an interaction at the Raj

Governor addressing civil services aspirants during an interaction at the Raj Bhavan. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi said on Thursday that if a Governor withholds assent to a Bill passed by the Assembly, it means the “Bill is dead”. He also stirred a controversy by saying foreign funding was behind the protests against the Sterlite copper and the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu.

Mr. Ravi said that withholding assent has been defined by the Supreme Court as “the Bill falling through”, implying that the Bill is dead.

“It is a decent language used instead of the word ‘reject’. When you say ‘withhold’, the Bill is dead,” the Governor told civil services aspirants during an interaction at the Raj Bhavan.

To a question about his role when the opposing parties are ruling at the Centre and in the State, Mr. Ravi said a Governor is a constitutional institution and the first and foremost responsibility of a Governor is to protect the Constitution.

He then elaborated on the role of a Governor as per the Constitution with regard to Bills passed by the Assembly and sent for assent. Stating that the Governor is part of the Legislature that comprises the Assembly and the Legislative Council (where it exists), he said giving assent to a Bill is a constitutional responsibility: the Governor has to see whether the Bill is exceeding the constitutional limit and whether the State is exceeding its competence. If the Bill exceeds the constitutional limit, it is the responsibility of the Governor not to give assent, he added.

“A Governor is part of the Legislature. So if a Bill is passed by the Assembly, it does not mean it is passed by the Legislature. Because the Assembly is part of the Legislature,” he contended.

Citing Article 200 of the Constitution, he said that when a Bill is passed by the Assembly and is forwarded for Governor’s assent, there are three options — to give assent; withhold the assent; and reserve it for the President. Ideally, it is discretion of the Governor to reserve the Bill for the President, Mr. Ravi said.

In some cases, even if a subject is in the Concurrent List and a State has passed a Bill, the Governor cannot give assent because Parliament has passed a law, and it has to go to the President, he added. The Governor sends it to the President. Again, the President can withhold the Bill or give assent to it, Mr. Ravi said.

“A Governor is not here to take only small, pleasant decisions. He has to take hard decisions also,” he added. Mr. Ravi said there are two exemptions. In the case of a Money Bill, the Governor has to give assent to it. If the Governor has returned the Bill and the Assembly passes it again, the Governor has no other option but to give assent, he said.

“Lot of political noise happens. Sometimes, it is said the Governor is representing the Union politically. The Governor is a President’s appointee,” Mr. Ravi said. “As far as I am concerned, as a Governor, you should discharge your responsibilities.”

To another question on the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, Mr. Ravi said that what was realised was that a lot of non-governmental organisations were receiving foreign funds and engaged in activities which were anti-national. He pointed out that whenever the work started at the Kudankulam plant, there was a protest in the name of safety, climate and environment.

Mr. Ravi said the anti-Sterlite plant protest was entirely foreign-funded. While the police firing was unfortunate, Sterlite was meeting 40% of India’s copper needs. “Copper is essential for electronic industry,” he said.

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