SC seeks responses from Centre, Governor over Kerala government plea accusing Governor of keeping Bills pending

A Bench took note of the submissions that alleged delay on the part of Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan in granting assent to 8 Bills.

BySouth First Desk

Published Nov 20, 2023 | 2:43 PMUpdatedNov 20, 2023 | 2:43 PM

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday, 20 November, sought responses from the Centre and the office of Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on a plea of the state government accusing him of not granting assent to several Bills cleared by the Legislative Assembly.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra took note of the submissions of senior advocate KK Venugopal, alleging delay on the part of the Governor in granting assent to eight Bills.

The top court also issued a notice to Attorney General R Venkataramani asking that either he or Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assist it in the hearing. The court will now hear the Kerala government’s plea on Friday.

‘Governors not realising they are part of the legislature’

“This is an endemic situation. The Governors do not realise that they are part of the legislature under Article 168 of the Constitution,” Venugopal said.

In its plea, the state of Kerala claimed that Governor Khan was delaying the consideration of eight Bills that have been passed by the state Assembly.

“Mr Venugopal submits that — 1. The Governor is a part of legislature under Art 162; 2. The Governor had promulgated three ordinances which were later converted into those passed by legislature; 3. As many as eight Bills are pending consideration for assent ranging from 7 to 21 months,” the Bench said in its order.

The Kerala government has claimed that the Governor was delaying the Bills by withholding his assent and this is “defeating the rights of the people”.

Also read: SC asks TN Governor on why he acted on Bills only after it issued notice

The petition

The petition, the second since 2 November, sought suitable instructions requiring Khan to clear Bills passed by the state legislature on time. It also accused the Governor of purposely delaying decisions on Bills passed by the state legislature with a clear majority.

The state’s chief secretary and law secretary filed the SLP as an appeal against a 2022 Kerala High Court verdict that refused a petition opposing the Governor’s decision to withhold controversial Bills indefinitely.

According to the SLP, the Governor is doing a grave injustice to the people of the state and members of the legislature by postponing the decision on legislation passed with a majority in the Assembly.

According to the petition, the Governor has not taken a decision on the eight crucial Bills passed by the Assembly, which it contended was illegal.

The petitioners in the first lawsuit, filed on 2 November, were Chief Secretary V Venu and CPI (M) MLA TP Ramakrishnan.

The Governor, the Raj Bhavan’s additional chief secretary, and the Union Government are the opposing parties.

SOUTH FIRST VIEW: Keeping Bills warm no remit of Governors

The SC observations

Earlier, while considering a similar appeal from Punjab, the Supreme Court chastised Governors for failing to clear Bills passed by legislatures.

”Governors should refrain from delaying decisions till state governments have petitioned the court, and they should keep in mind that they are not elected by the people,” said a Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud.

Heading a Bench comprising Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra as well, Chandrachud also remarked: “There has to be a little of soul-searching by all, by the Governors. Governors must act even before the matter comes to the Supreme Court. This has to come to an end when Governors act only when matters reach the Supreme Court.”

The Punjab administration claimed that Governor Banwarilal Purohit was causing administrative paralysis by failing to enforce seven Assembly-passed laws.

The Supreme Court termed it a matter of “serious concern” and said it was not happy with what was happening in the state.

The Bench told both the Punjab government and the Governor, “Our country has been running on established traditions and conventions and they need to be followed.”

It pulled up the Punjab Governor for not giving assent to bills passed by the state Assembly saying “You are playing by fire” and questioned his power to term the Assembly session as unconstitutional.

A similar plea has been filed by the Tamil Nadu government as well and is also being heard by the apex court.

Also read: Kerala Governor seeks evidence on crisis caused by him

(With PTI inputs)