SC issues notice to Kerala governor, plea to be heard on 24 November

SC has issued a notice on a plea by the Kerala government against governor Arif Mohammed Khan for delaying his assent to bills passed by the assembly

The Supreme Court has said the plea will be heard on 24 November (photo: IANS)
The Supreme Court has said the plea will be heard on 24 November (photo: IANS)

Ashlin Mathew

The Supreme Court issued a notice on Monday to the chief secretary to the governor and the Union government on a plea filed by the Kerala government against state governor Arif Mohammed Khan, alleging that he was delaying the assent of bills passed by the state assembly. The plea will be heard on 24 November.

The bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra has requested the presence of attorney-general R Venkatramani and solicitor-general Tushar Mehta in the matter.

Senior advocate KK Venugopal, who is appearing for the state government, stated that the governor of any state is part of the legislature under Article 168 of the Constitution. “For every State, there shall be a Legislature which shall consist of the Governor and two Houses to be known respectively as the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly,” states Article 168.

“This is an endemic situation,” said Venugopal, while submitting that the governor had promulgated three ordinances which were later converted into bills passed by legislature.

The Kerala government has argued that when the governor is delaying the assent of bills, it is "defeating the rights of the people".

The state government’s petition stated, “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 have remained pending with the governor for more than two years, and three for more than a year.

The Bills that have been pending 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 as are necessary in the interests of justice.

Earlier this month, the court had questioned Tamil Nadu governor RN Ravi over his delay in approving bills that had been sent to him as far back as January 2020. The court had observed that the governor’s inaction was a “matter of serious concern” and wondered why the governor had disposed of a few bills only after the state government had approached the apex court.

The CJI asked Venkataramani, “The governor says he has disposed of these bills on 13 November. These bills have been pending since January 2020. It means that the governor took the decision after the court issued notice. What was the governor doing for three years? Why should the governor wait for the parties to approach the Supreme Court?"

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