9 Feb 2022 10:04 AM GMT
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition was filed before the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday praying for a direction to the Central government to remove Jagdeep Dhankhar as the Governor of West Bengal, claiming that he was acting as the 'mouthpiece of the Bharatiya Janata Party'. The PIL has been filed by petitioner Rama Prasad Sarkar who is also a lawyer by profession. The...
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition was filed before the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday praying for a direction to the Central government to remove Jagdeep Dhankhar as the Governor of West Bengal, claiming that he was acting as the 'mouthpiece of the Bharatiya Janata Party'.
The PIL has been filed by petitioner Rama Prasad Sarkar who is also a lawyer by profession. The High Court is likely to hear the PIL on Thursday.
It may be noted that Dhankhar and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have clashed over a number of issues since he took charge as the Governor in July, 2019. The ruling party i.e. the Trinamool Congress has also been very vocal in its criticism of the Governor by claiming that several projects in the State were stuck due to the Governor's pending approval.
Averments in the plea
Opining on the conduct of the Governor, the petitioner averred, "The present Hon'ble Governor of West Bengal Mr. Jagdeep Dhankhar is acting as the mouthpiece of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He is not only interfering in the functioning of the state of affairs but is also maligning the West Bengal government. This is unparalleled in the history of West Bengal's democracy".
It was further submitted that Dhankhar is destroying the dignity of the Governor's position by critically commenting on the State government at every opportunity. It was further alleged that he is bypassing the State council of ministers and is dictating directly to State officials which is violative of the Constitution.
"The Governor is also a formal head who is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. Therefore, Mr. Jagdeeo Dhankar's observations about the functioning of the various ministries under the State government carry deeper political repercussions as they have the potential to affect the federal structure and amount to a misuse of political office", the plea further averred.
The plea further noted that federalism is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and thus the Governor cannot treat an elected State government as a 'second fiddle'. It was also contended that other States governments such as Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Kerala are equally disturbed by the conduct of the appointed Governors at the behest of the Central government.
Reliance was also placed on the Supreme Court judgment in B.P Singhal v. Union of India, wherein the Apex Court had underscored that a Governor is neither the employee nor the agent of the Union government. It had been further observed that like the President, Governors are expected to be apolitical, discharging purely constitutional functions irrespective of their earlier political backgrounds.
The petitioner also submitted that the immunity granted to the Governor under Article 361 of the Constitution is not absolute and that the actions of the Governor are subject to judicial scrutiny when challenged for arbitrariness, dishonesty and bad faith. It was argued further that if the act of the Governor is contrary to the rights of the individuals then the Governor would be liable under the proviso to Article 361(1) of the Constitution.
The plea also made a reference to the Supreme Court judgment in Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India wherein the Apex Court had recognised that the Governor was not excused from judicial review simply because he enjoyed such immunity under Article 361 of the Constitution. "Immunity granted ti the Governor under Article 361(1) does not affect the power of the Court to judicially scrutinise the attack made to the proclamation issued under Article 361 (1) of the Constitution of India on the ground of Mala fides or it being ultra vires", the Supreme Court had held.
In this regard, the petitioner further contended, "the immunity under Article 361(1) would not be applicable in cases involving political tweets and comments in a partisan manner, since even though it is not a legislative function of the Governor, he is mandated to perform certain functions under the Act".
It was further submitted that although the Central government has the power to remove Governors of different States, it is deliberately acting to not remove Mr. Jagdeep Dhankar as he is 'serving the political interest of the Central government.'
The petitioner also contended that he had submitted a representation to the Union of India, Department of Home Affairs as well as the President of India requesting the removal of the Governor, however no steps had been taken in this regard despite the fact that three months have elapsed since the receipt of such a representation.
Case Title: Ramaprasad Sarkar v. Union of India