Governors can't be removed without due procedure: SC

Resurfacing issue: New dispensation can't merely make way for those it finds favourable
Last Updated : 17 June 2014, 20:16 IST
Last Updated : 17 June 2014, 20:16 IST

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The Supreme Court in its 2010 judgment stated that state governors cannot be summarily removed just because of a change in government at the Centre.

The apex court had said though the governors may be removed by withdrawing the President’s pleasure, this power cannot be exercised in “an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner”.

Passing the landmark verdict, a five-judge Constitution bench presided over by then Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan said merely change in government at the Centre was not a ground for removal of governors in order to make way for others favoured by the new dispensation. In the backdrop of reports of nudging a few UPA-appointed governors to put in papers, it is important to note the apex court’s observations which said, “A governor cannot be removed on the grounds that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor can he be removed on the grounds that the Union government has lost confidence in him.”

But it cannot be concluded that the apex court had tinkered with the power vested with the President under Article 156(1) of the Constitution.

“The power will have to be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reasons. The compelling reasons are not restricted but are of a wider amplitude. 

“What would be compelling reasons would depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case,” the court had said, giving adequate scope in such matters. 

“The President can remove the governor from office at any time without assigning any reason and without giving any opportunity to show cause,” the court had added.

The Constitution bench ruled that the court would only have a limited power of judicial review in case of removal of governors. “If the aggrieved person is able to demonstrate prima facie that his removal was either arbitrary, malafide, capricious or whimsical, the court will call upon the Union Government to disclose to the court, the material upon which the President had taken the decision to withdraw the pleasure. If the Union government does not disclose any reason, or if the reasons disclosed are found to be irrelevant, arbitrary, whimsical, or malafide, the court will interfere,” it said.

Notably, the court’s order had come on a PIL filed by BJP leader B P Singhal in the wake of the removal of governors of the states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Goa on July 2, 2004, by the President on the advice of the UPA government.

In the verdict, the court rejected the view that a governor could be removed if the Union government or party in power lost ‘confidence’ in him.

“He is not an employee of the Union government, nor the agent of the party in power nor required to act under the dictates of political parties. There may be occasions when he may have to be an impartial or neutral umpire where the views of the Union government and state governments are in conflict. His peculiar position arises from the fact that the Indian Constitution is quasi-federal in character,” it said.

As per the Constitution, the Governor would hold office for a term of five years or till the time he or she enjoyed President’s pleasure.

Published 17 June 2014, 20:16 IST

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