GS Paper II

Gubernatorial restructuring


The author expresses his grief and despondency over the appointment and tenure of Governors and asserts the importance of the need to undergo radical reform, on account of the recent State politics for the CM’s chair.

What does the author express?

From the early morning swearing-in ceremony to the unceremonious pre-floor test resignation of Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, Raj Bhavan has found itself in the centre of controversy. The actions of the Maharashtra Governor over the last few days have invited scrutiny.

  • This year apart from Maharashtra, Karnataka also has made it to the gates of controversy with the formation of government after its Assembly Elections with an entangled hotchpotch of decisions by the Speaker and the Governor and hence, the actions of the Governor of Karnataka were subjected to judicial scrutiny on aspects of the discretionary powers of the Governor with regard to formation of government.
  • The author opines that unless a radical constitutional restructuring and reformation in the procedure of the appointment to office of the Governor, these controversies will remain unchecked and unresolved.

Let’s dig into the past

The Centre and its Governor

  • In April 1948, the Drafting Committee of the Constitution insisted on omitting all references to the discretionary powers of the Governor.
  • On May 31, 1949, B.R. Ambedkar said in unequivocal terms that the Governor “is required to follow the advice of his Ministry in all matters”.

However, it is clichéd that the Governor is required to exercise discretion in deciding the formation of government when there is no clear post-poll majority (though he must patently look up to the Government at the Center (New Delhi) to make any move).

  • Here, the cases of S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India, and Nabam Rebia v. Deputy Speaker provide unambiguous judicial guidance to how the office of the Governor must encounter tricky post-poll claims to form government and stay immune to political bias.
  • Unfortunately, the appointment process of Governors has made the office vulnerable to the biased influence of the Union government.
    The dangers of this habit of looking towards New Delhi for guidance lurks around to cause a disengagement of the autonomy if the mandate of its people can be defied or ignore by the Central appointee, according to constitutional expert, A.G Noorani.
  • When the Governor turns to the leader of BJP to stake claim and prove its majority on the floor of the House amidst both the Maharashtra and Karnataka post-poll ambiguity, though they did not have support of the majority in the respective Legislative Assemblies, the innocent voter’s choice and mandate is left disdained.
  • There is a definitive deception in the information that is made available to the public, while the farthest opposite scenario occurs during such political decisions.
  • The “swearing-in ceremony” that took place in Raj Bhavan, Mumbai, with such hush-hush, surprisingly grabbed no attention from either media or public, ignites a whiff of reasonable apprehension that the office of the Governor is open to be manipulated and misused in furtherance of political partisanship.
  • With this view, the author calls attention to keep the constitutional values safeguarded.

Constitutional correction

  • The Justice P.V. Rajamannar Committee, which was tasked by the Tamil Nadu government to look into Centre-State relations in 1969, recommended that State governments be included in the appointment process of Governors to drastically reduce their discretionary powers.

The call to rectify the imbalance in Centre-State equations must begin with such a reform.

  • With the Constitution of India itself granting legal immunity to the Governors on account of their sovereign functions and the Supreme Court reaffirming its powers to review the actions of the Governors, it is time now, to ameliorate the lacuna of the powers granted to the office.

Way forward

The powers and privileges that are attached to the office of the Governor must be accompanied by answerability, transparency and accountability.

Governors and their office must be scrutinised as much as any other public office. The court must lay down guidelines in this regard.

Appointment of Governor

The Governor is neither directly elected by the people nor indirectly elected by a specially constituted electoral college as is the case with the President. He is appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal. Practically, he is a nominee of the Central Government.

The office of Governor, as held by the Supreme Court in 1979, is not an employment under the Central Government. It is rather an independent constitutional office not under control or subordinate of the Central Government.

Though the Draft Constitution provided for direct election of the Governor based on universal adult suffrage, the present system is in the norm as it becomes incompatible with the Parliamentary system established in the States and must naturally belong to a political party and hence would not make a neutral and impartial head in the State level, amongst many other reasons.

The only 2 qualifications laid down by the Constitution of India for the appointment of a person as a Governor are:

  1. He should be a citizen of India.
  2. He should have completed the age of 35 years

Additionally, he must not belong to the State he is going to be appointed as the Governor of (so he is free of the local politics). The President is required to consult the Chief Minister of the State concerned so that the smooth functioning of the constitutional machinery in the State is ensured. However, both these seem to be violated in most cases.

Term of Office

A Governor holds office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office. However, this term is subject to the pleasure of the President. (The Supreme Court, however, objects the justifiability of this provision)

He can further resign at any time, by addressing a resignation letter to the President. The Governor has no security of tenure and no fixed term of office. He may be removed by the President at any time.

Powers and Functions of Governor

A governor possesses;

  1. Executive powers
  2. Legislative powers
  3. Financial powers
  4. Judicial powers

He does not enjoy the additional military or emergency powers like that of President.

Discretionary powers bestowed- Constitutional position of Governor

The Constitution makes it clear that if any question arises whether a matter falls within the governor’s discretion or not, the decision of the governor is final and the validity of anything done by him cannot be called in question that he ought not to have acted in his discretion.

Following are the major discretionary powers:

  1. Reservation of a bill for the consideration of the President.
  2. Recommendation for the imposition of the President’s rule in the State.
  3. In case of additional charge, while exercising his functions as the administrator of an adjoining union territory.
  4. Seeking information from the chief minister with regard to the administrative and legislative matters of the state.
  5. Determining the amount payable by the Government of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram to an autonomous Tribal District Council as royalty accruing from licenses for mineral exploration.

In addition to the above constitutional discretion (i.e, the express discretion mentioned in the Constitution), the Governor, like the President, also has situational discretion (i.e., the hidden discretion derived   from the exigencies of a prevailing political situation) in the following cases:

  1. Appointment of Chief Minister, when no party has a clear-cut majority in the State Legislative Assembly or when the Chief Minister in office dies suddenly and there is no obvious successor.
  2. Dismissal of the Council of Ministers when it cannot prove the confidence of the State Legislative Assembly.
  3. Dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly if the Council of Ministers has lost its majority.

Thus, the Constitution has assigned a dual role to the office of Governor in the Indian Federal system. He is the constitutional head of the State as well as the representative of the Centre.


GS Paper I, Paper II

Australia to return 3 idols to India in January


Australian PM announces the return of the valuable artefacts to India and this underscores the world’s debt to India’s magnificent culture, history and legacy. He reiterates that this signifies the strengthening of ties between the two nations.

A 7th – 8th-century sculpture of the serpent king (left) and a pair of 15th-century door guardians (right) will be returned to India in January 2020. (Photos: National Gallery of Australia)

What’s in the news?

  • Three culturally significant artefacts- a pair of ‘Dwarapalas’ (door guardians) from Tamil Nadu and one ‘Nagaraja’ (serpent king) from either Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, that was purchased from a former New York art dealer and smuggler, Subhash Kapoor will be returned to India by the government of Australia during the Prime Minister’s visit to India in January 2020.
  • According to the Government, the artefacts held by the National Gallery of Australia were purchased in good faith, but upon extensive research by the team, the gallery has decided to voluntarily return the artefacts to its original home.
  • The Dwarapalas are said to be from the 15th century and the Nagaraja was dated back to 6th to 8th century.
  • This is a kind and desirable gesture from the Australian Government and it has yet again voiced its immense respect for India’s culture and heritage.
  • It believes that the strong mutual ties, concerns and understanding between the Indian and Australian institutions in the recent years have helped in furtherance and development of their professional and political relationships bilaterally and in the global arena.
  • Both India and Australia are party the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transport of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Tid Bits

India’s Cartosat-3 plus 13 nanosatellites put in orbit

More information about Cartosat-3

  • It makes the 21st flight of the PSLV in the ‘XL’ configuration.
  • 5th launch by ISRO in 2019
  • 9th satellite of Cartosat series launched
  • It is the 74th launch vehicle mission from SDSC SHAR and the 49th flight of PSLV
  • It is likely to also be of military use since it provides the highest-ever spatial resolution of about a foot.
  • One of Cartosat-3’s cameras offer a high ground resolution of 25cm capture from a height of 500 km from the object, while the best so far was of 31cm offered by WorldView-3, a satellite owned by US company, Maxar.
  • The foreign commercial satellites carried onboard in the mission were launched under a special commercial arrangement with NewSpace India Ltd.,  (NSIL), the commercial arm of the ISRO.
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About the Author

Manasa Sastry

Masters degree holder in Forensic Science. Currently, a UPSC Aspirant helping fellow learners to sort their daily current affairs preparation. Loves to learn and help others. Music, dance and art are just a few of my many hobbies.

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