Center – State relations and Role of Governor
- The Governor of Tamil Nadu, R.N. Ravi dismissed V. Senthil Balaji, a Minister in the Council of Ministers of Tamil Nadu, without the recommendation of the Chief Minister of the State. (This has now been kept in abeyance).
- The reasons for the dismissal were mentioned as follows: continuation of the Minister in the Council will adversely impact the due process of law, including a fair investigation that may eventually lead to the breakdown of the constitutional machinery in the State.
What does the Constitution say on these matters?
- The Governor’s action was unconstitutional because the Governor does not have the power to dismiss a Minister without the advice of the Chief Minister.
- Article 164 of the Constitution states that the individual Ministers are appointed by the Governor only on the advice of the Chief Minister. Consequently, a minister can be removed from office only on the advice of the Chief Minister.
- Comparison of Article 164 with the Government of India Act, 1935, provides clarity on the selection and dismissal of Ministers by the Governor.
- Section 51(1) of the Act states that the Governor has the authority to choose and summon Ministers, who hold office at the Governor’s pleasure.
- Section 51(5) further states that the Governor exercises discretion in the functions related to the selection, summoning, dismissal, and determination of salaries of Ministers.
- This discretionary power of the Governor in selecting and dismissing Ministers reflects the “hire and fire” approach that was prevalent during the colonial rule under the Government of India Act, 1935.
- However, this discretion is not applicable in the current constitutional framework where Ministers are chosen and dismissed based on the advice of the Chief Minister, as per the provisions of the Constitution.
- In the Constituent Assembly, Dr. BR Ambedkar highlighted that there is no executive work which a Governor can perform independently under the Constitution.
- The Constitution of India has incorporated the pleasure doctrine from the Government of India Act, 1935. However, it is important to note that the meaning of “pleasure” in Article 164 pertains to the formal act of issuing the order of dismissal, which can only be done by the Governor upon the advice of the Chief Minister.
- Also, the words “chosen”, “dismissal” and “discretion” were omitted from Article 164 to ensure that the Constitution did not confer any discretion on the Governor to either choose or dismiss an individual Minister.
What did the Supreme Court say in this matter?
- In the case of Shamsher Singh and Anr vs State Of Punjab (1974), the Supreme Court ruled that the Governor’s powers are limited and that he/she cannot exercise the formal constitutional powers without the advice of his Ministers.
- This was further affirmed in the case of Nabam Rebia vs Deputy Speaker where the court held that discretionary powers of the Governor are limited to those in Article 163(1).
- Critics point out that the Governor’s action of dismissing the Minister without the recommendation of the Chief Minister was unconstitutional and has set a dangerous precedent. It has the potential to destabilize State governments and undermine the federal system.