State Of Narratives

Democratically elected Governments at the mercy of Governors in the opposition ruled states!!

government vs governor

The conflict between state governments and the office of the Governor is not a recent phenomenon with various states such as West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and others having witnessed it a number of times, now Kerala government has moved to the Supreme Court a second time against Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.

The 461 page special leave petition appeals a Kerala High Court judgment delivered on November 30 last year, which refused to fix a time limit for the Governor to deal with Bills presented to him under Article 200 of the Constitution.

How does it affect the smooth functioning of Democracy?


It has become a recurring pattern now and often for the governors to keep sitting on the bills, thus stifling the voice of the people. By not taking any action on the bill brings impediments to the passage of the “Acts which represents the wish of the People”.

The tussle between the governor and state governments is running around on one or the similar lines in all the opposition ruled states, when the Governors are keeping the bills for long and indefinite periods of time is arbitrary and violates Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 21 (Right to Life) by denying people the benefits of welfare  legislations enacted by the state assembly.

The State said eight key Bills were currently pending with Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. Some of these Bills have been held back for over two years.

Senior advocate K.K. Venugopal appeared for the state in the court. The petition said, “The Governor appears to be of the view that granting assent or otherwise dealing with Bills is a matter entrusted to him in his absolute discretion, to decide whenever he pleases. This is a complete subversion of the Constitution.”


In another case, earlier this week Supreme Court expressed discontent on Monday, 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. The Supreme Court was hearing a petition on Monday, filed by the Punjab Government accusing the Governor of sitting on seven key Bills related to subjects, including fiscal and State-affiliated colleges.

The Chief Justice asked the Chief Ministers and Governors to do a little bit of soul-searching. “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.

In Punjab, there is a clear subversion of democracy, as the Vidhan Sabha was adjourned sine die(no definite date or period to resume) in March and was recalled in June by the Speaker as per Rule 16 of Vidhan Sabha Rules to pass the seven bills. To which the State Governor, Banwarilal Purohit, had objected, saying the session ought to have been prorogued (discontinue a session of parliament or other legislative assembly without dissolving it) and reconvened.

 “This kind of thing has never happened in history,” said senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, appearing for the Punjab Government. The issue has brought the state government to a grinding halt.The court also questioned the Assembly’s action to reconvene three months after the Vidhan Sabha was adjourned sine die in March.

Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu earlier has alleged that Governor R.N. Ravi is manipulating the people’s decision by neither approving nor returning the Bills. They assert that the Governor has assumed the role of a “political rival,” creating a “constitutional deadlock” by keeping the Bills in limbo for an extended period.

Last year, Tamil Nadu government also filed a Writ Petition under Article 32 (Right toConstitutional Remedies) of the Constitution of India over the Governor’s inaction, omission, and delay in assenting to Bills 


In March this year, the Telangana government also took a legal recourse, it had filed a petition in Supreme Court, under Article 32, over Governor T Soundararajan’s inaction and delay over passing of the bills in the State legislative Assembly. 

The Supreme Court ultimately had to intervene in April for the Telangana Governor to clear Bills pending since September 2022, compelling 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.

Jitters over other Issues:

In the past, West Bengal, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu have even accused Governors in the Supreme Court of delay in the appointments of Vice-Chancellors to State-run universities. The opposition parties have also alleged the Governor to be an agent of the center.

Tamil Nadu has become a hotbed for contestations every now and then, where the Tamil Nadu Government alleged that various applications for appointment of the Chairman and members of Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission were pending with R.N.Ravi.

Last year, Tamil Nadu Governor, R.N Ravi, skipped reading parts of the Governor’s Address (which is passed by the state cabinet as the government’s policy plan), raising the question on the governor’s role as per the Indian Constitution, another issue arose over the appointment of the state cabinet minister.

The Murky Pattern:

If we closely observe the common thread is that, the issues have been arising in states ruled by opposition parties only. The opposition parties allege that the Governors in non-BJP ruled stages are stooges of the centre and the constitutional head of the state is acting in the most unconstitutional manner.

In the context of the role of the governor in relation to the chief minister, Article 163 of the Indian Constitution states that “There shall be a Council of Ministers with the chief minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except in so far as he is by or under this Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion”.  The Governor has discretion only in cases where it was provided in other Articles of the Constitution (such as the Sixth Schedule related to tribal areas of Assam). 

Even Dr. B.R. Ambedkar clarified, “The Governor under the Constitution has no functions which he can discharge by himself; no functions at all”.

Some of the important committees of the past like Sarkaria Commission, Punchhi commission and National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution have time and again reiterated that,  the governor should be an individual from a different state who was not recently involved in politics, and that the chief minister should be consulted before appointment, despite that often the Governor in opposition ruled states are appointed by the President completely on the advice of the Central Government only, weakening the federal fabric of the country.

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