Breaking Down the Basics
Part VI of the Constitution deals with the States, and lists out the role and responsibility of the Governors of States.
Article 153 provides for a Governor of every state and is the constitutional head of the state.
The executive power of the State shall be vested in the Governor and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this Constitution (Article 154).
Governor performs the same duties as of President, but as the executive head of a State; the working remains the same as of the office of President of India.
A Governor is a nominated head and not an elected representative.
Dual Role of the Governor as head and representative –
- Constitutional head of state; and
- Link between Union and State governments.
Dual role makes him a key functionary in the Indian Constitutional system.
Appointment of Governor
Articles 157 and 158 specify eligibility requirements for the post of governor.
The Governor of a State shall be appointed by the President (Article 155).
Reasons for nomination of Governor instead of election:
Nominated governor will promote all India unity and not separatist provincial tendency.
An elected governor will belong to a party, hence, will not be impartial and neutral.
Conflicts will arise between CM and Governor if both are elected by people.
Term of Office
As he holds the office during the pleasure of the President, a Governor cannot be impeached.
No specified grounds exist for removal.
Their term is terminated on the following occasions –
Dismissal by the President on the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the prime minister of the country.
Dismissal of governors without a valid reason is not permitted. However, it is the duty of the President to dismiss a governor whose acts are upheld by courts as unconstitutional and mala fide.
Resignation handed in by Governor.
POI – In 2004, on a PIL filed by then BJP MP B P Singhal challenging the removal of Governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Orissa by the previous UPA government, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by then Chief Justice of India, K G Balakrishnan, J held that a Governor can be replaced only under “compelling” reasons for proven misconduct or other irregularities.
Perks and Powers
Under Article 161 the Governor has the following powers –
power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment;
power to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.
Is Governor an agent of Centre?
Governor is an appointee of the President, and holds office “during the pleasure of the President.”
President is bound to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers (Article 74), in effect it is the Central Government that appoints and removes the Governors:
“Pleasure of the President” actually refers to will and wish of the Central Government.
The Constitution is strictly against compromising the relative autonomy of the States.
Appointing Governors due to:
Common political ideologies
or to reward past acts of the persons
Leads to over-centralization, hence giving rise to negative terms such as ‘agent of centre’, ‘rubber stamp’, etc.
Recent appointments of Governors do not abide by Constitutional mandate.
Keeping in mind that BJP is in power at centre:
In Congress governed Rajasthan, Kalraj Mishra (who is a politician and former cabinet minister in the BJP led NDA government of Narendra Modi) was appointed as Governor (2019-present).
Shri Bandaru Dattatreya (former Lok Sabha member for BJP) was appointed as the Governor in Himachal Pradesh in 2019.
Smt. Tamilisai Soundararajan was appointed as the Governor of Telangana; former state head of BJP in Tamil Nadu.
BJP member C. Vidyasagar Rao is replaced by another veteran BJP leader Bhagat Singh Koshyari in Maharashtra.
Arif Mohammed Khan has been appointed as the Governor in Kerala; he earlier quit the Rajiv Gandhi government over the Shah Bano case, has been cited many times by BJP.
Unless the party ruling the State is a non-BJP party, there is no check over the appointed Governor.
Though Constitution separates Centre and State, granting the latter relative autonomy, due to this biased nominated appointment of Governors is shrinking Governor’s roles down to clearly and distinctly become Agent of the Centre, implying, Governor was never meant to be Agent of the Centre, but is in danger of getting reduced to it due to biased practices.
There exists urgent necessity for depoliticization of the post of Governor.