Three instances when Governors didn’t buckle under pressure
The makers of the Indian Constitution created the office of the Governor to act as a link between the Centre and the states
The makers of the Indian Constitution created the office of the Governor to act as a link between the Centre and the states.
The Constitution also provides that “There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except in so far as he is by or under this Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.”
But discretion of the Governor is not absolute and cannot go against provisions of the Constitution or used without due diligence.
If we examine the recent conduct of the Governor of Maharashtra in the light of the above provision, it can be safely stated that his failure was total, even as the Supreme Court is due to adjudicate on his conduct.
Even as the Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari failed to exercise due diligence while using his discretion in swearing in Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, there are several examples from the past when Governors had refused to buckle under pressure.
There are three instances from Madhya Pradesh alone that come to mind.
In 1967, the elected Congress Government led by Pt. DP Mishra was overthrown after 36 Congress legislators deserted the party and joined the SVD (Samyukta Vidhayak Dal, consisting of Jana Sangh MLAs and followers of Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia).
Govind Narain Singh, a Congress defector, became the Chief Minister. After two years, he resigned. Following his resignation, Rajmata, in her capacity as the leader of the SVD, called on the then Governor KC Reddy and requested him to appoint Raja Naresh Chandra Singh as the Chief Minister.
The Governor asked several pointed questions. The questions were:
*Has the SVD legislature party elected Raja Naresh Chandra Singh as its leader?
* If yes, what is the proof of his election?
* When did the legislature party meet?
* Where is the notice issued to the MLAs to attend the meeting?
* Have you brought the minutes book in which the proceedings of the meeting were recorded?
Since Rajmata was not carrying the documents sought by the Governor, she was taken aback and had to return empty-handed.
According to newspaper reports, the Maharashtra Governor did not ask any of these questions and administered oath to Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar merely on the basis of a paper containing names of NCP MLAs, who were presumably supporting the BJP.
It is apparent that the Governor must have done what he did under pressure from the Centre. He failed to exercise his discretion.
The second incident relates to another chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Arjun Singh. A handful of legislators elected him as their leader in a meeting held at around 1 am. Arjun Singh wanted the then Governor Prof. KM Chandy to administer the oath to him at that odd hour.
Repeated attempts were made to wake up the Governor. Efforts were also made from Delhi. But the Governor refused to oblige. His staff communicated that the Governor had said a clear no to the proposal.
There is a third instance, again from Madhya Pradesh of how the Governor exercised his discretion. After his election as leader of the Congress Legislature Party, Shyama Charan Shukla approached the Governor with a list of MLAs he wanted to be sworn-in as ministers.
The Constitution (then) provided that in the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, there would be a minister in-charge of tribal welfare. Now the stipulation applies to the states of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
Since the list presented by SC Shukla did not have the name of any tribal, the Governor – veteran Congress leader SN Sinha – refused to administer oath to the ministers.
These instances when the Governor said ‘No’.
But times have changed. And Governors these days are too willing to fall in line and serve the interests of the ruling parties.