Protect the office

The Supreme Court ruling that the Centre cannot remove governors of states arbitrarily will help give more dignity and impart stability to this office. A Constitution bench of the court has, for the first time, made the Central government’s decision to dismiss a governor subject to judicial review. Though the president is the authority that appoints and dismisses governors, the actual powers lie with the Central government on whose recommendation the president acts. The court has ruled that a governor can be removed only for compelling reasons of proven misconduct or other irregularities. If the removal is not without ‘cogent’ reasons, the court can interfere, and if the governor can show that his dismissal was whimsical or malafide, it can ask the Centre to justify its action by revealing to it the ground on which the president has taken the action.

Though governors are expected to be the representatives of the president, they have often acted as agents of the governments in power at the Centre. Governments appoint their favoured politicians, retired  bureaucrats or other pliable persons as governors to protect their political interests in states, especially at the time of formation of state governments or when they are to be dismissed. The power of governors in these two situations has been circumscribed by guidelines laid down by the apex court, but they still have a lot of discretionary powers. That is why Central governments started the unhealthy practice of dismissing governors appointed by a previous government. The present ruling has come on a case filed against the dismissal of four governors appointed by the NDA government when the UPA government came to power in 2004.

While the judgement may act as a deterrent against mass dismissals of governors after a change of guard at the Centre, it is doubtful whether it will be useful in preventing dismissals in single cases. It might in any case make the Central government more cautious. But it will not stop the politicisation of the office because there is no check on the appointment of favoured persons as governors. The appointees are not always persons of calibre and distinction, as the court wants them to be. They will continue to serve the partisan interests of the government which appointed them and devalue the office with partisan conduct. The problem can be solved only if there are sound and inviolable norms exist for appointments too.

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