“Governors owe their allegiance to Constitution”


A Governor is not an agent or employee of the Union government who can be arbitrarily removed by the Centre during change of party in power, the Supreme Court held on Friday. A Constitution Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan said: “the doctrine of pleasure [under Article 156 of the Constitution] is not a licence to act with unfettered discretion to act arbitrarily, whimsically, or capriciously. It does not dispense with the need for a cause for withdrawal of the pleasure. The withdrawal of pleasure cannot be at the sweet will, whim and fancy of the Authority, but can only be for valid reasons.” The Bench was disposing of a writ petition filed as a public interest litigation in the wake of the removal of the Governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Goa on July 2, 2004 by the then President of India on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers.

The Bench said:

“In the early days of Indian democracy, the same political party was in power both at the Centre and the States. The position has changed with passage of time. Now different political parties, some national and some regional, are in power in the States. Further one single party may not be in power either in the Centre or in the State. Different parties with distinct ideologies may constitute a front, to form a government. “On account of emergence of coalition politics, many regional parties have started sharing power in the Centre. Many a time there may not even be a common programme, manifesto or agenda among the parties sharing power. As a result, the agenda or ideology of a political party in power in the State may not be in sync with the agenda or ideology of the political parties in the ruling coalition at the Centre, or may not be in sync with the agenda or ideology of some of the political parties in the ruling coalition at the Centre, but may be in sync with some other political parties forming part of the ruling coalition at the Centre. “Further, the compulsions of coalition politics may require the parties sharing power to frequently change their policies and agendas. In such a scenario of myriad policies, ideologies, agendas in the shifting sands of political coalitions, there is no question of the Union government having Governors who are in sync with its mandate and policies. Governors are not expected or required to implement the policies of the government or popular mandates. Their constitutional role is clearly defined and bears very limited political overtones.

“Reputed elder statesmen, able administrators and eminent personalities, with maturity and experience are expected to be appointed as Governors. While some of them may come from a political background, once they are appointed as Governors, they owe their allegiance and loyalty to the Constitution and not to any political party and are required to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

“We, therefore, reject the contention of the respondents that Governors should be in “sync” with the policies of the Union government or should subscribe to the ideology of the party in power at the Centre. As the Governor is neither the employee nor the agent of the Union government, we also reject the contention that a Governor can be removed if the Union government or party in power loses ‘confidence’ in him.” The Bench noted that persons of calibre, experience, and distinction “are chosen to fill these posts. Such persons are chosen not to enable them to earn their livelihood but to serve society. It is wrong to assume that such persons having been chosen on account of their stature, maturity and experience will be demoralised or be in constant fear of removal, unless there is security of tenure. The doctrine of pleasure is not a licence to act with unfettered discretion to act arbitrarily, whimsically, or capriciously.”



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