SC pulls up TN governor for refusing to appoint DMK's Ponmudi as minister

CJI Chandrachud questions how governor Ravi could say that appointing Ponmudi as minister was against 'Constitutional morality'

Governor Ravindra Narayana Ravi (photo: @airnewsalerts/X)
Governor Ravindra Narayana Ravi (photo: @airnewsalerts/X)

Ashlin Mathew

The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up Tamil Nadu governor R.N. Ravi for refusing to appoint DMK leader K. Ponmudy as higher education minister after the apex court suspended his conviction in a disproportionate assets case.

Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud questioned attorney-general R. Venkataramani as to what the governor was doing. “The conviction has been stayed by the Supreme Court and the governor says he won’t swear in the minister. Tell him that the Supreme Court has taken a serious view of it,” the CJI said.

The chief justice pointed out that the governor had said appointing Ponmudy as minister would be against Constitutional morality. “How can he say that? We will give time till tomorrow (22 March) for the governor, otherwise... we will not resist from passing an order directing the governor to act as per the Constitution. It is to avoid that situation that we are giving time,” Chandrachud told the AG.

The Supreme Court also stated that it was "concerned about the conduct of the governor".

The Tamil Nadu government had moved the Supreme Court on 18 March, accusing the governor of attempting to run a parallel government in the state. After an urgent verbal mention was made by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi and P. Wilson for Tamil Nadu in front of Chandrachud, he agreed to list the case.

The state government stressed that the governor could not take arbitrary decisions while appointing ministers and had to follow the advice of the chief minister-led cabinet under Article 164 (1) of the Constitution.

Disqualified Tamil Nadu minister Ponmudy was reinstated days after the apex court stayed his conviction and three-year prison term in a disproportionate assets case on 13 March 2024. The directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption registered a case against Ponmudy and his wife Visalakshi in 2011, when he was minister for higher education and mines, as he had been since 2006 in the DMK cabinet.

The governor had sent a letter to Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin on 17 March, refusing to appoint Ponmudy on grounds that the apex court had only stayed his conviction and not set it aside. The state argued that this letter amounted to wilful disobedience of a judicial order.

“The governor is attempting to run a parallel government or dyarchy. The governor is attempting to choose a minister as per his subjective assessment of suitability, which is impermissible. The letter has to be stayed and a direction issued to the governor to appoint Mr Ponmudy as a minister of the Government of Tamil Nadu and to allot him the portfolios as per the letter of the chief minister on 13 March to prevent grave and irreparable harm and hardships,” read the state’s application.

In 2023, the Tamil Nadu government approached the Supreme Court because the governor had not signed the bills passed by the Assembly. At the time, a bench led by the CJI had asked why the governor had only acted on some bills sent for his assent after the matter reached the court. The CJI had asked what the governor had been doing for three years as bills had been pending since January 2020.

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

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