Kerala govt moves SC against governor Arif Mohammad Khan

Kerala state government takes Governor Arif Mohammad Khan to Supreme Court over prolonged delays in passing at least eight essential bills

Governor Arif Khan (pictured) is accused by the Kerala state government of delaying bills passed by the state assembly, violating Articles 14 & 21 of the Constitution (photo: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Governor Arif Khan (pictured) is accused by the Kerala state government of delaying bills passed by the state assembly, violating Articles 14 & 21 of the Constitution (photo: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Ashlin Mathew

The Kerala state government has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking appropriate orders against Governor Arif Mohammad Khan as he has been unreasonably delaying the consideration of at least eight Bills that the state Assembly has passed.

The state government’s petition states, “The conduct of the Governor, as would presently be demonstrated, threatens to defeat and subvert the very fundamentals and basic foundations of our Constitution, including the rule of law and democratic good governance, apart from defeating the rights of the people of the State to the welfare measures sought to be implemented through the Bills.” Of the eight Bills, three Bills have remained pending with the Governor for more than two years, and three more than a year.

The Bills that have been pending with the Governor are:

1. University Laws Amendment Bill (1st Amendment) 2021 (Bill No 50) – 23 months

2. University Laws Amendment Bill (1st Amendment) 2021 (Bill No. 54) - 23 months

3. University Laws Amendment Bill (2nd Amendment) 2021 [APJ Abdulkalam Technical University (Mal)] – 23 months

4. Kerala Co-operative Societies Amendment Bill 2022 [MILMA] – 14 months

5. University Laws Amendment Bill 2022 – 12 months

6. Kerala Lok Ayukta Amendment Bill 2022 – 12 months

7. University Laws Amendment Bill 2022 – 9 months

8. Public Health Bill 2021 – 5 months

The state government wants the apex court to: (a) Declare that the Governor is bound to dispose of every bill presented to him within a reasonable time; (b) ) Declare that the above being the Constitutional position, in this case the Governor has failed in the exercise of his constitutional powers and duties; (c) Pass a direction or order directing the Governor to dispose of the pending bills without any further delay whatsoever; (d) and pass such other orders necessary in the interest of justice.

The petition points out that the Supreme Court had already dealt with a similar issue in case of Telangana where a notice was issued in March 2023. In that case, the Supreme Court had observed that “Article 200 states that the Governor may “as soon as possible after the presentation” of the Bill for assent, return the Bill if it is not a Money Bill together with a message for reconsideration to the House or Houses of the State Legislature”. The expression “as soon as possible” has significant constitutional content and must be borne in mind by constitutional authorities.

The state government underscored that words “as soon as possible” necessarily mean that not only should pending bills be disposed of within a reasonable time, but further that these Bills have to be dealt with urgently and expeditiously without any avoidable delay.

“The urgency should normally mean a few weeks and nothing more, as the State Legislature, through its elected representatives has debated a Bill and has finally decided that the public interest would require, as a part of the governance of the State, to have the Bills made into law as soon as possible,” pointed out the state government plea.

As many as three Bills have been kept pending by the Governor for more than two years. The governor disposed on 18 September, the Kerala Private Forest (Vesting and Assignment) Bill, which was sent to him on 6 April. This meant that the non-disposal of the earlier Bills presented to the Governor was a conscious act.

“The Governor appears to be of the view that granting assent or otherwise dealing with Bills is a matter entrusted to him in his absolute discretion, to decide whenever he pleases. This is a complete subversion of the Constitution,” said the state government.

The conduct of the Governor in keeping Bills pending for long and indefinite periods of time is also manifestly arbitrary and violates Article 14 of the Constitution, highlighted the state. “Additionally, it also defeats the rights of the people of the State of Kerala under Article 21 of the Constitution, by denying them the benefits of welfare legislation enacted by the state Assembly,” asserted Kerala.

The state has also submitted that a Governor who acts in gross disregard and violation of the provisions of the Constitution cannot be said to be functioning in discharge of his duties as a Governor, since, no Governor is entitled to violate the provisions of the Constitution, whether through his action or inaction.

It has been pointed out in the petition that Article 361 which grants immunity to the Governor from being answerable to any Court is limited to “any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of those powers and duties”.

Earlier this week, the Tamil Nadu government too had moved the Supreme Court against the Governor over delay in clearing Bills and Government orders. The Tamil Nadu Government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against Governor R N Ravi over the alleged delay in clearing bills.

In the petition, the Tamil Nadu government listed out 12 Bills which are still pending with the Governor. "The Governor by not signing remission orders, day-to-day files, appointment orders, approving recruitment orders, granting approval to prosecute Ministers, MLAs involved in corruption including transfer of investigation to CBI by Supreme Court, Bills passed by Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly is bringing the entire administration to a grinding halt and creating adversarial attitude by not cooperating with the State administration," the petition further stated.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, in a 15-page letter to President Droupadi Murmu, said that Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi's various activities were against the people of Tamil Nadu and the elected Government and that he had positioned himself as a "political rival" to the state government.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines