Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi
Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi

Sacking of minister by TN governor an imprudent move

Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi is an audacious newsmaker. He is barely bogged down by denunciation, even if his reckless act means overstepping the powers bestowed on him.

Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi is an audacious newsmaker. He is barely bogged down by denunciation, even if his reckless act means overstepping the powers bestowed on him. His roller-coaster ride with the state government in the last two years has grabbed several headlines, but his recent unilateral decision to sack a minister through a late-evening ‘order’ has raised a serious question mark on his interpretation of the Constitution of India.

Indeed, it was the culmination of an ongoing conflict between him and the chief minister, M K Stalin. While he repeatedly insisted that Senthil Balaji, currently facing criminal proceedings, should be removed from the cabinet, Stalin maintained that the governor has no role in advising the government on the issue. On the eventful day of July 29, the governor issued two letters: one to announce that he had ousted Balaji, and the second to keep the first one in abeyance. In his first letter, he recalled that the SC had made a series of scathing observations indicating serious misconduct by Balaji, who is using the ‘shield of office’ to protect himself from lawful consequences and obstructing the due process of law. So, he invoked Articles 154, 163, and 164 of the Constitution to dismiss Balaji.

What made it a memorable spectacle was how he backtracked in a late-night move, four hours after his ‘order’ found its way to curious prime-time debates on national TV channels. He apparently followed the advice of Home Minister Amit Shah. The drama has inevitably brought out two narratives. One, the continuation of a tainted minister will lead to the breakdown of the constitutional machinery. The other is, from where is a governor, who is supposed to act as per the aid and advice of the council of ministers, getting the power to sack a minister? While the BJP focuses on the first narrative, the DMK and the opposition parties are stressing the “limited” role given to the “agents” of the Central government.

They insist that when there is no conviction and charges are yet to be filed, a call to sack a minister is ill-timed. By forcing the governor to keep the ‘order’ in abeyance, New Delhi has scuttled a potential court battle for the time being on the vexing issue of the governor’s role. While the DMK has disregarded both letters from Ravi, everyone is keenly awaiting the next move. Whatever it is, he is unlikely to mount an attack on the government, aided by the attorney general’s legal opinion.

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