New Delhi: In a recent development, the Supreme Court has expressed dissatisfaction with Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan for not acting on bills passed by the state legislature over the past two years. The court indicated that it might consider establishing guidelines on when governors can refer bills to the President of India for assent.
The Chief Justice, D Y Chandrachud, leading the bench, took note of the Attorney General R Venkataramani’s statements that out of eight bills, seven were “reserved” for the President’s consideration, while one received the governor’s assent. The court questioned the governor’s inaction, asking, “What was the governor doing for two years by sitting on the bills?”
Advocate KK Venugopal, representing the Kerala government, emphasized the need for the court to set guidelines, stating that the governor’s delay in assenting to bills halts governance and positions the governor as an adversary to the assembly.
The court permitted the Kerala government to amend its plea seeking guidelines for state governors to promptly grant or decline assent to bills. The bench encouraged a discussion between the governor, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and the minister concerned, expressing hope for “political sagacity” to prevail. Chief Justice Chandrachud asserted the court’s commitment to upholding the law and performing its duty under the Constitution.
While the court initially considered disposing of the case due to the governor’s recent decisions on the bills, it later decided to keep it pending and explore the possibility of establishing guidelines on the matter.
This development stems from a petition filed by the Kerala government, asserting that the governor’s delay in granting assent to eight bills was impeding the rights of the people. The government argued that these bills, focused on public welfare measures, were of immense public interest, and the delay deprived the state’s residents of their benefits.
The Supreme Court had previously directed the additional chief secretary to the Kerala governor to refer to a recent verdict in Punjab’s case, where it was held that state governors cannot obstruct the normal course of lawmaking.
The situation highlights a growing concern over the role of governors in the legislative process and the need for a defined framework to ensure timely decision-making. The court’s contemplation of laying down guidelines signals a potential shift in how such matters are addressed in the future.
As the case unfolds, it remains to be seen how the Supreme Court will navigate the delicate balance between the powers of the governor and the imperative for effective governance in the state of Kerala.