GS- II >> Polity >> Anti-Defection Law
Context: Recently, the Supreme Court has stressing that Governors should promptly act on the delay in granting assent to Bills, which has led to legal challenges by state governments.
Constitutionality of Governor’s actions:
- Constitutional position of Governor:
- Article 154 of the Indian constitution grants executive powers to the Governor.
- Article 153 specifies that each state should have a Governor appointed by the President, following the procedures outlined in Article 155.
- The Governor’s role includes safeguarding the constitution and law, as well as ensuring the efficient functioning of the state.
- The Governor primarily exercises nominal powers and typically acts on the advice of the Chief Minister.
- The Process of Granting Assent:
- Article 200 of the Constitution: Options available to the Governor when a Bill is presented.
- Governor can declare assent, withhold assent (if not a Money Bill), or reserve the law for the President’s consideration.
- Withholding Assent:
- If Governor withholds assent, the Bill should be returned to the Legislative Assembly for reconsideration. The Assembly will reconsider and pass the Bill.
Roles and Responsibilities of the Governor:
- Constitutional head: Appoints the Chief Minister and other officials of the state under Article 164. Exercises executive, legislative, financial, and judicial powers.
- Supreme Court observations:
- Shamsher Singh & Anr vs State of Punjab (7 Judges): Governor and President are like the Constitutional heads of England. Custodians of executive, legislative, judicial, and financial powers. Shall strictly act upon the advice of their Ministers, except under extraordinary circumstances.
- U.N.R. RAO vs Indira Gandhi: The position of President or Governor is a formal title without pure authority. Real power vests in the council of ministers.
Constitutional power of Governor:
- Executive powers of the Governor: Powers exercised on advice of the council of ministers. Board of Ministers is the true executive, acts in the name of Governor under Article 166.
- Legislative powers of the Governor:
- Article 200: Governor’s role when a bill is passed by the legislative assembly. Governor can assent, withhold assent, or reserve the bill for the President’s consideration.
- ‘As soon as possible’ in Article 200 is a mandate, and Governor’s role is mostly formal. Governor has no veto powers.
- Financial powers of the Governor:
- Article 202: Governor lays annual financial statement before the state legislature. Money bills require Governor’s recommendation under Article 207.
- Governor appoints a Finance Commission every 5 years under Article 243I. Governor can withhold assent on a money bill with the lack of confidence.
- Judicial powers of the Governor:
- Article 217: President appoints High Court Judges after consulting with the Governor. Governor plays a role in judicial appointments.
- Immunity from court proceedings under Article 361, except if the grounds are malafide or ultravires. (Rameshwar Prasad case)
- Discretionary power:
- Reservation of a bill for the consideration of the President (Article 200). Recommendation for the imposition of President’s Rule (Article 356) in the state. Exercising functions as the administrator of an adjoining union territory (in case of additional charge).
- Determining royalty payable by Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram governments to a Tribal District Council from mineral exploration licenses. Seeking information from the chief minister regarding state administrative and legislative matters.
- Situational discretion:
- Appointment of a chief minister when no party has a clear majority in the state legislative assembly or when the incumbent chief minister dies suddenly without an obvious successor.
- Dismissal of the council of ministers when it loses the confidence of the state legislative assembly.
Reasons for Governor’s authority:
- Ensuring checks and balances: Governor’s power allows for a thorough review of bills and orders, ensuring their alignment with the constitution and the state’s best interests.
- Preventing hasty decision-making: Governor’s authority prevents the passage of rushed or poorly considered legislation, mitigating the potential for unintended adverse consequences.
- Safeguarding minority rights: The Governor serves as a safeguard against potentially oppressive decisions made by the majority, protecting the rights and interests of minority groups.
- Supporting parliamentary democracy: The delay in decision-making provides time for public discourse, expert insights, and consultations with stakeholders, essential components of parliamentary democracy.
- Facilitating conflict resolution: In cases of disputes between the state government and the central authority or among various state institutions, the Governor’s role can help in conflict resolution.
Key Supreme Court decision and commission recommendations:
- Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix vs Dy.Speaker (2016):
- The Supreme Court clarified that a Governor’s discretion under Article 200 is limited to deciding whether a bill should be reserved for the President’s consideration.
- The Court emphasized that the Governor’s actions or inactions concerning bill approval are subject to judicial review.
- Punchhi Commission (2010): It recommended setting a time limit for Governors to decide on granting assent or reserving a bill for the President’s consideration.
- National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC):
- The NCRWC proposed a four-month time limit for Governors to decide a bill’s fate.
- It also suggested the removal of the Governor’s authority to withhold assent, except in cases explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.
- Governor’s neutrality and responsibilities: Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasized that Governors should not delay or obstruct state government bills for political reasons and should act in a neutral and responsible manner.
- Constitutional compliance: The Supreme Court is determined to ensure that constitutional compliance is upheld in the interaction between Governors and Chief Ministers. The delays in Bill approvals and the mechanism for addressing such issues are subjects of judicial scrutiny.
- Role clarification: The precise role of the governor should be clearly defined in the context of India’s evolving political landscape to eliminate ambiguities.
- Review of discretionary powers: A comprehensive review of the governor’s discretionary powers should be conducted to ensure that they align with the principles of democracy and justice.
- Timely decisions: Setting reasonable timeframes for the governor to decide on bills and other critical matters would promote efficient governance.
- Governor selection: A re-evaluation of the governor selection process, emphasizing impartiality and suitability, can enhance the effectiveness of the position.
- Constitutional amendments: Consideration of constitutional amendments to redefine the scope of the governor’s powers and promote greater harmonization between the centre and the states.
GS- II >> International Relations>> India-Bhutan Relation
Context: During the official visit of Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, India and Bhutan made a joint commitment to strengthen regional connectivity.
Both nations have committed to move forward with the construction of a 58 km cross-border railway connection linking Gelephu and Kokrajhar in Assam, and they are also considering the possibility of establishing a second railway connection between Bhutan and West Bengal.
About India Bhutan bilateral relations:
- India and Bhutan share unique and exemplary bilateral relations, which are based on mutual trust, goodwill and understanding. Formal diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan were established in 1968.
- The basic framework of India Bhutan relations is the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1949 between the two countries, which was renewed in 2007.
Areas of cooperation:
- Trade and economic ties: India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner both as an import source and as an export destination.
- India’s merchandise trade with Bhutan accounts for about 80% of Bhutan’s overall trade, with the balance of trade in India’s favour.
- Developmental partnership: India has been extending economic assistance to Bhutan’s socio-economic development since the early 1960s when Bhutan launched its Five-Year Plans.
- The key areas of focus of GOI’s assistance include agriculture and irrigation development, health, industrial development, energy, civil aviation, human resource development etc.
- Hydropower cooperation: Mutually beneficial hydro-power cooperation with Bhutan is a key pillar of bilateral economic cooperation.
- The ongoing cooperation between India and Bhutan in the hydro-power sector is covered under the 2006 bilateral agreement for cooperation and its Protocol signed in 2009.
- Four hydro-electric projects (HEPs) totaling 2136 MW are already operational in Bhutan and are supplying electricity to India. E.g., Chukha HEP, Kurichu HEP, and Tala HEP, Dorjilung HEP, Mangdechhu HEP.
- Cultural ties: India and Bhutan share a profound cultural and spiritual connection, with Buddhism serving as a pivotal pillar of their deep-rooted relationship.
- Annually, a considerable number of Bhutanese pilgrims embark on journeys to sacred Indian locations such as Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Sikkim, Udayagiri, and more.
- Defence cooperation: India under the 2007 treaty mandated the protection of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bhutan. Under this treaty India intervenes in Doklam against China.
- Space cooperation: India and Bhutan agreed to collaborate on the joint development of a small satellite for Bhutan, and the MoU between India and Bhutan on cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space signed in 2020.
- The India-Bhutan SAT was launched into space in 2022 by ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
- Concerns of Bhutan’s economic progress under India’s umbrella: There has been a change in the pattern of financial grant from India towards Bhutan with respect to hydropower projects, earlier the grant used to dominate the package (60% as grant and 40% as loan) which has now dominated by loan component under changed methodology (70% as loan and 30% as grant).
- Bhutan – China Bonhomie: Both countries have engaged in boundary talks to address border disputes.
- Additionally, China has raised new territorial claims in the Sakteng region, leading India to carefully assess Beijing’s intentions and its capacity to change the existing state of affairs.
- Furthermore, Bhutan’s establishment of diplomatic ties with China positions it as the most recent South Asian nation to navigate the complex India-China rivalry.
- BBIN project: Bhutan’s decision to withdraw from the BBIN project stemmed from concerns about potential environmental repercussions.
- They were wary that the project’s execution might result in elevated pollution levels, primarily due to a surge in vehicular traffic and industrial operations.
- Bhutan ethnic clashes with neighboring countries: In the 1990s, Bhutan expelled the Lhotshampa, an ethnic group with its origins in Nepal which made up one-sixth of Bhutan’s population, to preserve its unique national identity.
- Safety of Border from China is a concern for both nations. Therefore, both sides need to work together on this issue. Also, it needs to be ensured that border areas remain militants free.
- Both the countries must enhance connectivity which is a central pillar of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies.
- India continuously needs to explore new areas of cooperation with Bhutan. Decision of setting up ISRO’s ground station in Bhutan is a welcome step. The station will help Bhutan in providing weather related messages to its far-flung areas.
The longstanding India-Bhutan partnership has evolved into a robust and mutually advantageous alliance that cannot easily be dismantled. To further fortify this alliance for the future, India should prioritize confidence and unwavering faith in the relationship and refrain itself from displaying any insecurity and diverse opinions.