Governors should do a ‘little bit of soul-searching’, Supreme Court says

Published - November 06, 2023 08:42 pm IST

The Supreme Court on Monday expressed acute displeasure at Governors holding back key Bills, especially in Opposition-ruled States such as Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana, until State governments approach the top court for judicial intervention.

“This is a serious issue we should look into… Why should parties be made to approach the Supreme Court for the Governors to act. We are a democracy in operation since the birth of the Constitution. These are matters to be sorted out between the Governors and Chief Ministers. We will ensure that the Constitution is complied with,” Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, heading a three-judge Bench, observed.

The Chief Justice said it was time everybody, including Governors and Chief Ministers, did “a little bit of soul-searching”.

“The Governors should not be oblivious of the fact that they are not elected by the people,” the Chief Justice noted. The Bench was hearing a petition filed by the Punjab government accusing the Governor of sitting on seven key Bills related to subjects, including fiscal and State-affiliated colleges.

Advocate General for Punjab later clarified that three of the seven Bills were Money Bills, of which two have been recommended by the Governor after the petition was filed in the Supreme Court. Four Bills on other subjects, presented to the Governor in July, were still pending with him.

The State, represented by senior advocate A.M. Singhvi along with the Advocate General, said the Vidhan Sabha was adjourned sine die in March and recalled in June by the Speaker as per Rule 16 of the Vidhan Sabha Rules to pass the seven Bills. The Governor had objected, saying the session ought to have been prorogued and reconvened.

“This kind of thing has never happened in history,” Singhvi submitted. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the Governor was taking “appropriate action” on the Bills presented to him.

“There are astonishing things happening here. They keep the Assembly alive, and whenever they want to abuse people, they meet. This is an unnecessary litigation. The Governor has taken action. He has dealt with the Bills appropriately by either declaring assent or referring to the President… I do not know. I will seek instructions and come back on Friday (November 10),” Mehta said.

The court also questioned the Assembly’s action to reconvene three months after the Vidhan Sabha was adjourned sine die in March.

“The Assembly was summoned on March 3 and adjourned sine die, without being prorogued, on March 22. The Speaker then reconvenes the Assembly three months later! Is that really the scheme of the Constitution? Or if there is a break of three months, do you not then prorogue the session... Here, the Budget Session has run into the Monsoon Session,” Chief Justice Chandrachud criticised the Punjab government.

Senior advocate K.K. Venugopal, for Kerala, intervened at this point to note that the State had also approached the Supreme Court against its Governor holding back crucial Bills. “Some of these Bills have been pending with him for over two years… When the Governor was told the State had approached the apex court, he said ‘let us see, we will fight it out’,” Venugopal submitted.

Tamil Nadu, represented by senior advocate P. Wilson, has accused Governor R.N. Ravi of toying with the citizens’ mandate by sitting on the Bills, neither assenting nor returning them. It said the Governor had positioned himself as a “political rival” who had caused a “constitutional deadlock” by simply sitting on the Bills for months together.

The Supreme Court had to intervene in April for Telangana Governor to slowly clear Bills pending since September 2022, compelling senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the State, to submit that legislatures in Opposition-ruled States were at the mercy of the Governors, who had become a law unto themselves. West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have even accused Governors in the Supreme Court of dabbling in the appointments of Vice-Chancellors to State-run universities.

Delhi air pollution | Odd-even vehicle rationing scheme to return after Deepavali, says Environment Minister

Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Monday said that the Delhi government will implement the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme in Delhi from November 13 - November 20 to reduce air pollution.

From November 13-November 20, odd-even will be implemented in Delhi. After studying the situation following the implementation, a decision will be taken on future actions,” Rai said while addressing a press conference. The announcement was made as a spike in air pollution is expected after Deepavali, Rai said.

The odd-even scheme entails allowing vehicles whose registration number ends in even digits to ply on even dates and those with odd last digits to ply only on odd dates. Rai also said that to prioritise the health of schoolchildren, the government has decided to suspend in-person classes in all schools, except for students of grades X and XII preparing for board exams.

On Sunday, as the air quality was in the “severe plus” category, a slew of measures including a ban on entry of trucks into Delhi, with some exceptions, was declared by the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM). The CAQM also directed that State governments may consider additional emergency measures such as an odd-even vehicle rationing system based on registration numbers. The bans were part of “stage 4” measures under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), a set of emergency measures to control air pollution.

Meanwhile, air pollution in Delhi continued to be in the “severe” category on Monday, according to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data.

Supreme Court nod to RSS route march in Tamil Nadu; State given the liberty to amend the route

The Supreme Court on Monday, November 6, 2023 agreed to a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) route march in Tamil Nadu on either November 19 or November 26, but gave the State authorities the liberty to pick one of the two dates and decide the course of the march.

The court said the event organisers could submit their proposed route by November 9. The State has to notify the route by November 15. A Bench of Justices Surya Kant and Dipankar Datta was hearing a special leave petition filed by the State, through the Director General of Police (DGP), against two orders of Single Judge Benches of the Madras High Court allowing RSS route marches in the State.

Senior advocate Madhavi Divan, appearing for respondent K. Chandrasekar, said the route march organisers would undertake to cooperate with the State authorities on the fixing of a date and the route for the march. “We just want to hold the march,” Divan submitted.

The State, represented by senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Mukul Rohatgi and Tamil Nadu Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari, said the government was wary about the march triggering violence and even communal clashes in the State. “We do not want that to happen in our State,” Sibal emphasised. He said an earlier route proposed by the organisers had passed through Jama Masjids and mosques.

During the hearing, Rohatgi said the organisers wanted to hold three marches in every district. “Your Lordships can tell them to hold one rally in one district. They have to give us the proposed route. We should be allowed the liberty to amend the route,” he suggested.

Sibal said the State should decide whether it should be “one rally or three rallies”.

Justice Kant said the event organisers had already given an “unconditional undertaking” to maintain peace and cooperate with the authorities. “What is the problem as long as they adhere to their undertaking?” the court asked. In one of the two back-to-back orders of the Madras High Court in October, Justice G. Jayachandran had concluded that the State’s refusal to permit the route marches was “certainly not in tune with Secular or democratic way of governance” and contrary to “principle of secularism”.

In April, the apex court had dismissed a similar special leave petition filed by Tamil Nadu against orders passed by the Madras High Court allowing RSS route marches in the State.

Magnitude 5.6 earthquake strikes Nepal region, tremors felt in Delhi-NCR

An earthquake of 5.6 magnitude struck west Nepal on Monday and strong tremors were felt in parts of north India, the National Centre for Seismology said. It said the epicentre for the quake was 233 kilometres north of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

The quake triggered panic among people, with many in Delhi and the National Capital Region reporting vigorous shaking of furniture. Several social media users shared visuals of people rushing out of residential buildings.

At least 157 people were killed and more than 160 injured when a powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake, the worst since 2015, struck Nepal on Friday night and destroyed hundreds of houses in the Himalayan nation’s remote mountainous region.

Nepal lies in one of the most active tectonic zones (seismic zones IV and V) of the world, making the country extremely vulnerable to earthquakes.

Parliament panel adopts reports on criminal laws

A Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs on Monday adopted three reports on Bills to replace the existing criminal laws with some Opposition members submitting dissent notes, sources said.

The Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs, chaired by BJP member Brij Lal, met on Monday, nearly 10 days after members had sought additional time to study the draft reports circulated late last month.

Parliamentary sources said some Opposition members had already submitted their dissent notes to the reports on the three Bills to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 with Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, respectively.

Some more Opposition members were expected to submit dissent notes in the next two days as per rules, sources said. On October 27, the Standing Committee on Home could not adopt the three draft reports as some Opposition members pressed for more time to study it.

In Brief:

The Lok Sabha Ethics Committee meeting to consider and adopt its draft report on the cash-for-query allegations against TMC MP Mahua Moitra has been postponed to November 9 from November 7, according to a notice from the Lok Sabha secretariat. No reason has been officially cited for rescheduling the meeting. The convening of the meeting for adopting the draft report means that the committee headed by BJP MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar has finished its enquiry and will now be making its recommendation after its members ranged along party lines in their last deliberations on November 2.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.

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