Governors can't be removed at will

Change of gubernatorial posts should not be arbitrary, says Supreme Court

Governors can't be removed at will

A five-judge constitution bench of Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan, Justices S H Kapadia, R V Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy and P Sathasivam said: “A governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union government or the party in power at the Centre.’’


Lost of confidence

The bench even said a governor cannot be dismissed on the ground that the government has lost confidence in him.

“It follows, therefore, that change in the government at the Centre is not a ground for removal of governors holding office, to make way for others favoured by the new government,’’ said the judgement.

Even though the Constitution (Article 156(1)) provides that a governor will hold office during the pleasure of office, this power cannot be exercised in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner, clarified the apex court.

During the arguments, senior lawyer Soli J Sorabjee had questioned the removal of four governors by the UPA government after the NDA lost elections in 2004.

He had said constitutional office holders should not be made sacrificial goats at the altar of electoral politics and should be treated with the dignity that they deserve.
Sorabjee had argued for a  fixed tenure for them or in case of removal, they be given proper reasons by the President of India.

Compelling reasons only

The top court said a governor can be removed only under “compelling reasons,” and the reasons depend on the facts and situations of a particular case.

During the arguments, the Centre had contended that a governor’s conflicting views with the national policy could invite his/her removal from the office by cutting short the five-year tenure.

The Centre had said the governors act as a bridge between the Centre and the state governments and as such they cannot disagree on their own with the views of the government.

B P Singhal, then BJP member of parliament, had filed a public interest litigation  in 2004, challenging the removal of governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Orissa by the previous UPA government. Vishnu Kant Shastri, Babu Parmanand, Kailashpati Mishra and Kidarnath Sahni were asked to go after the UPA led by Congress came to power.

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