General Studies Paper 2

Context: The recent controversy surrounding the Tamil Nadu Governor’s   actions regarding the passage of Bills in the  State Assembly  has led to a resolution being passed urging the President of India to intervene. Several Bills passed by the Assembly have been pending as the Governor has not made any decision.

The Assembly passed a resolution urging the President of India to fix a timeline for assent to be given to Bills passed by the Assembly.

This has raised questions over discretionary power of governor with respect to unlimited delay in giving assent to the bills which are duly passed by state legislature.

Can the Governor withhold His Assent to a Bill in Exercise of His Discretionary Powers?

  • While a plain reading of Article 200 suggests that the Governor can withhold his assent, experts question whether he can do so only on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
  • The Constitution provides that the Governor can exercise his executive powers only on the advice of the Council of Ministers under Article 154.
  • The larger question is why a Governor should be allowed to withhold assent when the Bill is passed by the Assembly.
    • The Supreme Court of India recently addressed the issue of Governors sitting on Bills that they do not agree with, leading to an indefinite delay in State Legislative Assemblies. The Court referred to the provision of Article 200 of the Constitution, which mandates that Governors should not delay over Bills sent to them for assent after they had been passed by Legislative Assemblies.

What are the Issues with Pending Bills?

  • Delay in Decision-Making:
    • The Governor’s failure to take a decision on the Bills passed by the legislature leads to a delay in decision-making, which affects the effective functioning of the state government.
  • Delay in Implementation of Policies and Laws:
    • When the Governor fails to make a decision on a Bill passed by the assembly, it delays the implementation of policies and laws.
    • This delay can have significant consequences, especially when the Bill is related to public welfare.
  • Undermines the Democratic Process:
    • The Governor, who is appointed by the Centre, can use his powers to delay or reject Bills passed by state assemblies for political reasons, which undermines the democratic process.
  • Public Perception:
    • The public often views pending Bills with the Governor as a sign of inefficiency or even corruption in the state government, which can damage the government’s reputation.
  • Constitutional Ambiguity:
    • There is ambiguity in the Constitution regarding the Governor’s power to withhold assent.
    • Although the Constitution grants the Governor the power to withhold his assent, it is unclear whether he can do so only on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
  • Lack of Accountability:
    • When the Governor withholds assent, he does not provide any reason for his decision.
    • This lack of accountability undermines the principles of transparency and accountability in governance.

Way Forward:

  • Timeframe for assent:
    • The Supreme Court can consider fixing a reasonable time frame for Governors to take a decision on a Bill passed by the Assembly, in the larger interest of  federalism in the country.
    • This can prevent undue delay and ensure that governance of the state is carried out in accordance with constitutional provisions.
  • Dialogue between the Centre and States:
    • There is a need for a dialogue between the Centre and States to address this issue and ensure that the constitutional provisions are upheld.
  • Public awareness and activism:
    • It is important to raise public awareness and activism on this issue and demand that the constitutional provisions are followed in a transparent, fair, and timely manner.
  • Civil society groups, media, and citizen forums can play a crucial role in this regard by highlighting the issue and putting pressure on the authorities to act in the public interest.
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