Role of Governor in calling an Assembly session
Recently, the Kerala Governor has turned down a request to summon a special sitting of the Assembly to debate the new three central farm laws.
The Governor’s powers are limited regarding summoning the House of the Legislature of the State. Discuss.
Role of Governor on summoning the house:
● As per Article 174 of the Constitution, “The Governorshall from time to time summon the Houseor each House of the Legislature of the State to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit”.
➢ The provision also puts on the Governor the responsibility of ensuring that the House is summoned at least once every six months.
● Although it is the Governor’s prerogative to summon the House, according to Article 163, the Governor is required to act on the “aid and advice” of the Cabinet. So, when the Governor summons the House under Article 174, this is not of his or her own will but on the aid and advice of the Cabinet.
● Special Case for the Governor’s discretion
➢ When the Chief Minister appears to have lost the majority and the legislative members of the House propose a no-confidence motion against the Chief Minister, then the Governor can decide on his or her own on summoning the House.
● But the actions of the Governor, when using his discretionary powers can be challenged in court.
➢ Several rulings by the Supreme Court have settled the position that the Governor cannot refuse the request of a Cabinet that enjoys a majority in the House unless it is patently unconstitutional.
➢ In 2016, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court looked into the constitutional crisis in Arunachal Pradesh after the Governor had imposed President’s Rule in the state. The verdict held that:
In ordinary circumstances during the period when the Chief Minister and his council of ministers enjoy the confidence of the majority of the House, the power vested with the Governor under Article 174 to summon, prorogue and dissolve the house(s)must be exercised in consonance with the aid and advice of the chief minister and his council of ministers. In the above situation, he has precluded [from taking] an individual call on the issue at his own will, or in his own discretion.
The court read the power to summon the House as a “function” of the Governor and not a “power” he enjoys.
● Sarkaria Commission of 1983, which reviewed the arrangements between the Centre and the states, had said that so long as the Council of Ministers enjoys the confidence of the Assembly, its advice in these matters, unless patently unconstitutional, must be deemed as binding on the Governor.
● Since the Governor’s powers are limited with regard to summoning the House, there can be no legal ground to deny a request for summoning the session.
● For the smooth functioning of government, the governor must act judiciously, impartially and efficiently while exercising his discretion and personal judgment.