TN Governor Ravi’s actions ‘ambivalent’, says SC, directs him to meet CM MK Stalin and resolve issue

The apex court told the Governor that he had only three options to deal with the Bills presented to him for assent and forwarding them to the President after withholding consent was not among them

ByParmod Kumar

Published Dec 01, 2023 | 4:34 PMUpdatedDec 01, 2023 | 4:34 PM

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday, 1 December, directed Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi to invite state Chief Minister MK Stalin and resolve the stand-off on the fate of the Bills sent to the former for his assent.

The apex court also questioned the Governor’s decision to forward to the President the Bills he initially withheld consent to and which the State Assembly returned to him after re-enacting them.

The Bench said under Article 200 of the Constitution, the Governor had three options to deal with the Bills passed by the State legislature. He can give his consent, withhold the assent, or refer it to the President. By originally withholding his consent, the Governor had already made his choice, and he now cannot refer them to the President.

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, heading a bench also comprising Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, said it is best the Governor and the chief minister meet and settle the issue.

He said: “We will appreciate if the Governor resolves the issue. Let the Governor invite the chief minister.”

The matter has been posted to 11 December for the next hearing.

Related: SC asks Governor on why he acted on Bills only after it issued notice

‘No actions can be taken after withholding Bills’

As apprehensions were expressed that the Governor might still refer the Bills to the President, CJI Chandrachud said: “They know we are here.”

The top court in the earlier hearing had stated that if the Governor chose to withhold the consent, he extinguished the option of reserving the Bills and referring them for the consideration of the President.

“Mr Attorney General, we would like the Governor to resolve the impasse,” CJI Chandrachud told Attorney General (AG) R Venkataramani, who appeared for the Union government.

The AG said beyond the three options available to the Governor under Article 200 — to give assent, withhold assent and send it back to the legislature with a message or reserve it for consideration by the President — the Governor could continue withholding the Bil.

Also read: SC criticises Kerala Governor Khan for sitting on Bills for two years

‘Should give assent after repassing’

CJI Chandrachud asked whether the “Governor has independent power (beyond Article 200) to withhold the Bill (passed by the legislature) and kill it”.

Referring to Article 200 of the Constitution, the bench said that after a Bill had been re-endorsed (repassed) by the legislature, the only course available to him was to give his assent.

The strong observations from the bench came when it was stated that after the Tamil Nadu Assembly had reiterated the Bills that were withheld by Governor Ravi, the latter sent them for consideration by the President.

The bench, in unequivocal terms, said that the option for referring the Bills repassed by the state Assembly to the President was not available to the Governor.

Noting that the President was an elected office and the Governor was a “nominee” of the Union government, the bench said: “There is an ambivalence on the part of the Governor. And, when he withheld the assent, where is the option of sending it to the President for consideration?”

Also read: I am not rubber stamp or yes man: Kerala Governor on holding back Bills

‘Ambivalence on the part of the Governor’

“He (Governor) could have sent them to the President (in the first instance); there is an ambivalence on the part of the Governor”, CJI said as AG Venkataramani sought to carve out an option for the Governor to keep the Bill to himself after he withholds the assent, without exercising any of the three options under the Article 200 of the Constitution.

Describing Governor Ravi’s acts as “Constitutional obstinacy”, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, referred to earlier judgements of the top court where the issue before the court on the powers of the Governor on the Bills sent to him for assent, were long settled.

In the last hearing of the matter, on 20 November, the Supreme Court had said that Governor Ravi acted on the Bills that were long pending with him only after it issued notice on the state government’s plea seeking its intervention.

The court had stated that under Article 200 of the Constitution Governor had to act “as soon as possible” in exercising the three options.

When AG Venkataramani, at the last hearing, had told the bench that RN Ravi became the Governor on 18 September 2021, suggesting he was not in office when the Bill was presented to the Governor in 2020, CJI Chandrachud said: “We are talking about the office of Governor… The issue is not whether any particular Governor delayed but whether in general there has been a delay in exercising the constitutional functions.”