Kerala

Kerala government moves Supreme Court against Governor over pending Bills

Express News Service

NEW DELHI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Opening a new front in its fight with the Raj Bhavan, the Kerala government on Thursday moved the Supreme Court against Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, alleging he was holding back Bills passed by the state assembly without giving assent, thereby defeating the right of the people and violating Article 14 of the Constitution.

In its plea, the state government submitted that the governor has not yet given his assent to eight Bills sent to him after being passed by the assembly. Of these, three Bills have been pending with the Raj Bhavan for more than two years and three others over a full year. The petition has been filed by Chief Secretary V Venu for the state government. CPM leader T P Ramakrishnan, MLA, also moved the SC against the governor. 

Each of the Bills pending with the governor is in the interest of the people of Kerala, proposing to improve the state of public health infrastructure to tackle communicable diseases by applying the lessons learnt during the COVID pandemic, and by making state university laws consistent with central laws to create uniform national standards as required by the apex court, it said.

“The failure of the governor to act, thus, affects the rights which would accrue to the people of the state... A governor who acts in gross disregard and violation of the provisions of the Constitution cannot be said to be functioning in the discharge of his duties as a governor, since, no governor is entitled to violate the provisions of the Constitution, whether through his action or inaction,” the government submitted.

“The conduct of the governor, as would presently be demonstrated, threatens to defeat and subvert the very fundamentals and basic foundations of our Constitution, including the rule of law and democratic good governance, apart from defeating the rights of the people of the state to the welfare measures sought to be implemented through the Bills,” the plea stated.

Govt move an attempt to divert attention from ongoing issues: Oppn

The government contended that the University Laws Amendment Bill (2nd Amendment) 2021 [APJ Abdulkalam Technical University (Mal)] has been pending with the governor for 24 months and the Kerala Co-operative Societies Amendment Bill 2022 [MILMA] for over 15 months. “The holding back of the Bill is impeding the much-needed reform in conferring the basic democratic right of voting to the primary diary cooperative societies,” it said.

The Kerala Lok Ayukta Amendment Bill 2022 has been pending with the governor for 13 months. The delay of over six months of “The Public Health Bill 2021” is a “severe setback to the state government’s time-bound action plan to retain its status as a role model to others,” it said.

Meanwhile, Raj Bhavan sources said the governor has obtained legal opinion after the Supreme Court’s observation in the Telangana issue and is confident that he can hold his ground pointing out legal and technical issues relating to the pending legislations. The view of the Union government may also come into play, they said. Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan termed the government’s move as an attempt to divert attention from ongoing issues.

State Congress chief K Sudhakaran said it was wrong for the government to move the Supreme Court against the governor. However, withholding bills indefinitely was ‘unconstitutional and anti-democratic’ because they were passed by the legislature after considerable deliberations. However, Law Minister P Rajeeve defended the government’s action saying withholding Bills indefinitely was “unconstitutional and anti-democratic” since they have been passed by the legislature after exhaustive deliberations.

The tussle between the LDF government and the governor has been going on for some time over different issues. The fight reached a flash point when Khan kept the government on tenterhooks over his policy address in the assembly in 2022. Khan was also unhappy with the assembly over its resolutions on different issues, including the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The ongoing issue over pending legislations began when the government tried to clip the governor’s wings in the appointment of Vice- Chancellors. The assembly brought out a couple of legislations, first cutting down his powers in the appointment of VCs and later removing him as Chancellor of Universities.

Eight bills

  • The governor has not given his assent to eight Bills passed by the state assembly.
  • Of these, three Bills are pending with Raj Bhavan for more than two years, and three others for over a year.

A governor who acts in gross disregard and violation of the provisions of the Constitution cannot be said to be functioning in the discharge of his duties as a governor, since, no governor is entitled to violate the provisions of the Constitution, whether through his action or inaction 
— Kerala govt’s plea in SC

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