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By M Sridhar Acharyulu

“Had I wanted, the Telangana Assembly and government could have collapsed. I could have simply not permitted the Legislative Assembly session to commence on the day as the government wanted. Then on the grounds of exceeding 6 months prescribed gap between two sessions, the Assembly could have automatically dissolved”. This was the statement of Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan that appeared in some Telugu dailies as banner news on April 8. It means that she was kind enough to allow the K Chandrashekhar Rao’s government to survive. No video was released. English newspapers did not report this aspect.

The Governor met the Home Minister and the Prime Minister in the first week of April and thereafter addressed the media in New Delhi, airing various complaints against the KCR government.

Mum Raj Bhavan

There is no statement from the Raj Bhavan of Telangana denying the news reports that she could have withheld the signature on the Budget session commencement file leading to the fall of the government.

She raised issues related to protocol and courtesy like – no officer visited her when she attended the Madaram Tribal festival, not invited to Yadagiri renovated temple’s inauguration, Ministers and officers did not attend Ugadi celebrations at Raj Bhavan in spite of invitation, the Chief Minister was not courteous to say a word when she was in grief after the demise of her mother, etc. But the allegation that she was not allowed to address the first session of the Assembly and that she was magnanimous in allowing the Budget session to go on within six months are related to Constitution.

The Governor has the right to give special address in the Assembly in a new session of the calendar year under Article 175. The government contended a technical point that the last session of the Assembly in September 2021 was not prorogued, that makes the Assembly meeting in February 2022 a part of the same session. Hence, it was not a new session in the calendar year that requires to start with the Governor’s address. The only serious issue that raises constitutional concern is the power of the Governor to dismiss the government by withholding the file seeking the Governor to summon the House for the Budget session.

‘As She Thinks Fit’

Article 174 says the Governor shall summon the House at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session. The phrase ‘as he thinks fit’ does not mean the whims and fancies of the Governor. Article 174(2) says the Governor may from time to time (a) prorogue the House or (b) dissolve the Legislative Assembly. Does it mean that the Governor can dissolve whenever s/he wants? Or can we infer that showing the interval between two sessions exceeded six months, the Governor has the power to dissolve the House? Absolutely not.

It looks like the Governor’s power but actually, it is the duty. The Governor shall see that the next session is summoned within six months. Governor Tamilisai says she could have not summoned the Budget session as sought by the government and if desired could have caused the fall of the government. If she really said it, it is simply not possible as per the Constitution.

It is again the duty of the Governor that the Budget is passed in time by the Assembly. Every demand in the Budget shall be made except on the recommendation of the Governor. There is no question of not permitting. Article 202 says the Governor shall cause to be laid before the House of the Legislature a statement of the estimated receipts and expenditure of the State for that year. Instead of understanding the duties of the Governor, Madam Tamilisai thinks she can withhold it and cause the collapse of the government. It is unimaginable for any educated person to say the ‘duty’ is converted into ‘power’, which includes its abuse to destroy the government.

Extreme Thinking

The Governor of Telangana needs to say that the government of Telangana is ‘my government’. Can she pull down her government, simply because she was loyal to the ruling party at the Centre before she was appointed in Raj Bhavan? To think so is extreme thinking and not intended by the Constitution. The government will not collapse automatically because the Assembly could not meet within six months. This is the question of law.

Coming to the factual aspect, the government wanted the Assembly to be summoned. That request or advice reached within six months. When that is the case how can the Governor say I could withhold the consent and cause collapse? If that is done for any reason, it becomes a malicious and unconstitutional abuse of provisions of law. Another important point is the Governor cannot do anything on his/her own. There is no discretion available to the Governor on summoning the House or proroguing it. It has to be done on the advice of the Government. It is not a request or submission or a representation or a recommendation. It is the advice and the Governor shall follow it, that is all.

Kaushik Reddy’s Nomination

Another point of contention is, the Governor’s silent rejection of the nomination for the Legislative Council. The TRS government wanted Kaushik Reddy to be nominated to the Council. Article 171 (5) says: “The members to be nominated by the Governor under sub-clause (e) of clause (3) shall consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following, namely:— Literature, science, art, co-operative movement and social service.”

These are broad expressions which include many activities. It is difficult for anyone to say that the nominee does not belong to any stream of these activities. The Governor thought he does not fit in ‘social service’ stream and hence rejected him. This is considered to be the starting point of distance between the government and the Governor. The Chief Minister waited for the clearance from the Governor. It did not happen. Then Kaushik Reddy was elected from the MLA quota. If the Governor had any objections to his nomination, she should have communicated to the government.

Study the Constitution

The Governor appointees should understand the Constitution for which they should be trained in either school of law or any other training institution. Even if they use these powers and act without or against the advice of the Council of Ministers, their act could be reviewed in the constitutional courts and reversed. There are several instances where the Governor’s actions were reversed, unseated Chief Ministers were reinstated and some Governors were removed. The occupants of Raj Bhavans should know this.

(The author is Dean, School of law, Mahindra University, Hyderabad, and former Central Information Commissioner)

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Author: Howard Caldwell