Recent Governor Issue in Tamil Nadu
According to the statement sent by the Raj Bhavan on June 29, 2023, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, R.N. Ravi, has dismissed V. Senthilbalaji, a Minister in the Council of Ministers of Tamil Nadu.
Dismissing a Minister of a government with an absolute majority in the State legislature without the Chief Minister of the State’s recommendation is an unprecedented and purposefully provocative act that will create a dangerous precedent and could undermine state governments, endangering the federal system.
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According to Article 164 of the Constitution, the Governor appoints the Chief Minister without consulting anybody else. However, he only appoints the specific ministers on the Chief Minister’s recommendation. According to the Article, the Governor is not permitted to designate a certain Minister at his discretion. So, it stands to reason that the Governor can only dismiss a Minister on the Chief Minister’s recommendation.
Looking through the 1935 Government of India Act will make this issue quite clear. The Governor’s Ministers shall be appointed and called by him, shall take the oath of office as members of the council, and shall hold office during his pleasure, according to Section 51(1) of this Act.
It is made clear in this Part that the Governor shall appoint the Ministries. They thereby continue in office while he so chooses. The functions of the Governor under this section with regard to the appointment, summons, dismissal, and determination of the remuneration of Ministers shall be exercised by him in his discretion, according to Section 51’s sub-section 5 as well.
Now, the Governor of Tamil Nadu’s behaviour gives the appearance that he believes the Governors nominated by His Majesty by the commission under the Royal Sign Manual have the same discretionary powers as the Governors appointed under the Indian Constitution.
Perhaps he had this notion since Article 164 states that “the Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor.” Yet in independent India, a governor is simply a ceremonial head who may only make decisions with the support and counsel of the Council of Ministers, which is presided over by the Chief Minister.
The Supreme Court of India has outlined the Governor’s role in the Indian Constitution in a number of judgements.
“We declare the law of this branch of our Constitution to be that the President and Governor, custodians of all executive and other powers under various Articles, shall, by virtue of these provisions, exercise their formal constitutional powers only upon and in accordance with the advice of their Minis,” wrote a seven-judge Constitution Bench in Shamsher Singh and Anr v. State of Punjab (1974).
In Nabam Rebia v. Deputy Speaker, a Constitution Bench of five justices upheld the rule of law established in Shamsher Singh and added that the Governor’s discretionary powers are constrained to those outlined in Article 163. (1). The Court also overturned rulings in the Mahabir Prasad Sharma and Pratapsing Raojirao Rane cases that had determined that the Governor might utilize his or her authority under Article 164 without restriction.
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