Rajya Sabha TV In Depth Powers of Governor & Lt Governor
On 20 June 2018 the state of Jammu and Kashmir was placed under Governor’s rule after the BJP withdrew support to its alliance partner PDP, forcing Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to resign. This is the eighth spell of a Governor ruling the state of J&K, and the fourth such incident under NN Vohra. But unlike Jammu and Kashmir, in all other states in the event of failure of constitutional machinery, the President’s rule is imposed.
- Democracy is the system of government in which citizens have the powers to choose representatives from among themselves to form a governing body.
- During the British rule, India was centrally ruled by one Government- Crown rule/ direct rule in India. Also, India was divided into provinces. But the Constitution makers decided to make dual sets of governments– the national and state governments.
- India is a country that has both states and Union Territories (Article 1). Unlike states that have their own government, Union territories are ruled directly by the Union Government. The Lt Governors/ Administrators in the Union Territories have similar powers and functions at the state level as the President of India at Union Level.
- Articles 153 to 167, Part VI deals with the state executive.
State Executive = Governor + Chief Minister + Council of Ministers + Advocate general of the state.
Governor is appointed under Article 153.
- Governors are not elected by the people and, so their role was debated in the Constituent Assembly. But, they were considered important in situations of constitutional crisis and for bridging the gap between the centre and the state government.
- Unlike states, Union Territories are ruled directly by the Union Article 239 to 241, Part VIII deal with the Union Territories.
- Article 239 says that every Union Territory in India shall be administered by the President of India, to such extent as he thinks fit, through an administrator to be appointed by him. It is called Lieutenant Governor in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi and Puducherry. Thus, Lieutenant Governor is an administrator and not a constitutional head like governors of states.
- In a federal system, the Governor of a state is the ceremonial head of the state executive and has the rights to be kept informed of the decisions of the state ministry. But criticisms of the Governor are:
- Governor is an agent of the Centre.
- Power tussle between Lieutenant Governor and elected government becomes intensified in Union Territories like Delhi.
- His post is considered ceremonial.
- Governors are appointed for political manoeuvrability and represent the centre.
- Their power is often misused to form or dissolve the state governments.
- Governor plays two roles:
- Constitutional head of the state.
- Representative of Central Government.
- Powers and privileges of Governor in India:
- 7th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1956: A Governor can be appointed for more than one state. Example- Governor of Punjab is concurrently the Administrator of Chandigarh.
- Article 164(1): Power to appoint the Chief Minister.
- Article 165: Governor appoints other heads of the state- State Advocate General, chairman of the public service commission and other members.
- Article 243: Governor appoints state’s election commissioner and finance commissioner.
- He is consulted by the President for appointing judges of High Courts and has other judicial powers also.
- Governor’s decision is final and cannot be questioned.
- Governor can recommend President’s rule.
- Article 174: Governor convenes, dissolves state legislature.
- Article 200: No bill in the state can be passed without governor’s assent.
- The Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir is imposed for a period of 6 months (Article 92 of Jammu and Kashmir’s constitution). During this period, the state assembly remains suspended and the Governor may also dissolve the assembly.
- In all states in India, except Jammu and Kashmir, the government’s failure results in President’s rule. It refers to the suspension of state government and imposition of direct central government rule in a state under Article 356 of the Constitution.
- Jammu and Kashmir has a separate constitution that provides for an intermediary statutory layer in the state. Special provisions for Jammu and Kashmir were made after ‘Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India’ was signed by Pt Nehru and Maharaja Hari Singh on 26 Oct 1747:
- Special status under Article 370 (Autonomous status)
- It is the only state in India to have its own constitution that was adopted on 17 Nov 1956 and came into effect on 26 Jan 1957.
- Parliament cannot make laws on subjects mentioned in the state list.
- Residuary power lies with the legislature of J & K.
- As per constitution of J & K:
Section 26(2): The executive power of the state shall be vested in the Governor.
Section 46: Legislature of the state = Governor + 2 Houses (Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council)
Section 92: Proclamation of Governor’s rule (Additional powers to governor). After the expiry of 6 months, Article 356 will come into force (President’s Rule).
- The powers of Governors of states and Lt Governors or Administrators of Union Territories vary. For example- The Lt Governor of Delhi has more powers vested in him as compared to governors of states.
- A person to be appointed as a Governor must be a citizen of India & < 35 years in age. He must not be a member of either House of Parliament. He is appointed for a term of 5 years.
- In a parliamentary system, the actual power lies with the Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the Head. But Governor plays an important role during a crisis situation.
Although the existence of a Governor was debated in the Constituent Assembly and critics exist for his role but, the Governor and Lt Governor play a pivotal role in running the constitutional machinery of states and Union Territories especially during a crisis situation. Such a situation has arisen in Jammu and Kashmir, eighth time at present, and Governor needs to play his role effectively to maintain Constitutional provisions and bring peace and stability in the region.