'Why Is Governor Sitting On Bills For Two Years?' : Supreme Court Criticises Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan
The Supreme Court on Wednesday, (November 29) criticised the conduct of the Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan in sitting over the bills passed by the Kerala State Legislative Assembly for two years."No reason has been given by the Governor to keep the bills pending", observed the bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud in the order. "The power of the Governor cannot be utilised...
The Supreme Court on Wednesday, (November 29) criticised the conduct of the Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan in sitting over the bills passed by the Kerala State Legislative Assembly for two years.
"No reason has been given by the Governor to keep the bills pending", observed the bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud in the order. "The power of the Governor cannot be utilised to pause the law making exercise of the legislature," the bench added referring to the recent judgment passed in the case relating to the Punjab Governor.
The bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, was hearing a writ petition filed by the State of Kerala against the Governor's inaction on eight bills.
Senior Advocate and former Attorney General for India, KK Venugopal informed the bench that after notice was issued on the writ petition, the Governor cleared one bill and referred the remaining seven to the President. He highlighted that some of these bills were passed way back in 2021 itself.
"For two years a welfare bill is not allowed to be law. The governance of the state is suffering. This is adversarial. Unless your lordships step in very strongly, it will affect citizens," Venugopal urged.
"Mr AG, there is some merit in the argument. Why is governor sitting on bills for 2 years?", CJI asked Attorney General for India R Venkataramani.
"I don't want to get into a political...", replied the AG. "We will get into it. It's about accountability," CJI stated.
Venugopal pointed out that the Governor is sitting on eight other bills, including a money bill. "This is affecting the governance of the State," he said.
Regarding the money bill, the AG assured the bench that the Governor will act on it. "He will act accordingly. I don't think he will sit on money bill," AG said. The bench recorded the AG's assurance in the order.
"As regards the bills pending before the Governor, bills have been passed recently in August and September. The learned AG states that the Governor will take necessary actions," the bench recorded.
Venugopal stresses on need to lay down guidelines on Governor's power to refer bill to President
Venugopal argued that a Governor cannot simply refer a bill for the President's consideration and urged the Court to issue guidelines for the exercise of that option by the Governor. He pointed out that of the seven bills, three were earlier issued as Ordinances, for which the Governor had granted assent. If the Governor had no objection to the bills at the stage of Ordinance, how can he now refer them to the President, asked the former Attorney General.
However, the bench pointed that a prayer for guidelines will be broadening the scope of the present writ petition. Now that the Governor has taken some action, the initial grievance ventilated in the petition has been resolved, opined the CJI.
Venugopal then sought liberty to amend the petition to seek reliefs regarding guidelines. "There is no single power in the Constitution vested in any authority which is arbitrary. The constitution would say Art 14 would apply to any action," Venugopal argued.
AG raised an objection that the relief regarding the guidelines cannot be sought in the present petition.
"If we dispose this petition, how will they move a fresh petition for guidelines? The other bills are pending for two months. There bills were pending for two years. We would be doing a disservice...," CJI said giving liberty to the State to amend the petition.
Last week, the Supreme Court had slammed the Governor of Tamil Nadu also, for taking no action on bills for three years.
The following were the bills mentioned in Kerala's writ petition as awaiting the Governor's assent:
- University Laws Amendment Bill (1st Amendment) 2021 -23 months
- University Laws Amendment Bill (1st Amendment) 2021-23 months
- University Laws Amendment Bill (2nd Amendment) 2021 [APJ Abdulkalam Technical University (Mal)] -23 months
- Kerala Co-operative Societies Amendment Bill 2022 [MILMA] -14 months
- University Laws Amendment Bill 2022 -12 months
- Kerala Lokayukta Amendment Bill 2022-12 months
- University Laws Amendment Bill 2022 -9 months
- Public Health Bill 2021 -5 months
Last week, the Supreme Court had observed that the Governor should read the judgment passed in the Punjab Governor's case.
On November 28, the Governor cleared the Public Health Bill and referred the rest to the President. Among the referred bills are bills which propose to divest the Governor of the powers to make appointments in State Universities. The bill limiting the powers of Kerala Lok Ayukta and relating to MILMA society have also been referred to the President.
Case Title: The State Of Kerala And Anr. v Honble Governor For State Of Kerala And Ors. W.P.(C) No. 1264/2023