Between Articles 153 to Article 217 of the Constitution of India they provide for wide ranging powers that a Governor of any State in the Union of India has at his command. Though most of the time they are not heard off until the incumbent Governor, in this case Governor of Maharashtra, Bhagat Singh Koshyari decides to exercise those powers at his disposal.
A political system not used to having seen a Governor exerting his powers, suddenly raises its eyebrows when a Governor does so. He is certainly not the first one to do so. Former Governor of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Singh, incumbent West Bengal Governor Jadgeep Dhankar and current Governor of Kerala, Arif Mohammad Khan who have in the recent past expressed their views and actions in equal measure.
Of the many articles under the constitution, there are two stand-out articles that define the role and powers of a Governor of any state, and they are Article 154 and Article 163 of the constitution of India.
We merely reproduce them here for a fair understanding:
“The executive power of the State shall be vested in the Governor and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officer’s sub-ordinate to him in accordance with the Constitution of India (Article 154)”.
“There shall be Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advice the Governor in the exercise of his functions except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion. (Article 163)”.
There are several instances in the recent past where Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari has exercised his powers much to the dislike of the Shiv Sena, raising its hackles. Be it rejecting the cabinet proposal for approving the nomination of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for one of the two vacant Governor Nominated quota seats, or for that matter the recent aid and advice to the state government to hold the final year degree college exams as per the Maharashtra Universities Act, 2017, the Governor has miffed the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi no ends.
Finding its proposal twice being turned down that would have granted easy and safe passage to Uddhav Thackeray to retain his Chief Ministership, predictably the Shiv Sena lashed out at the Governor’s office accusing it of being under some sort of external political pressure. The Governor was well within his powers to have turned down the proposal as the duration of the term of membership of the said vacancy in the Legislative Council was less than a year. The matter was defused with the Governor recommending to the Election Commission of India (ECI) about holding elections for the 9 Elected by MLAs (EMLAs) constituency.
But the current so-called stand-off over the state governments move to defer holding the final year degree examinations, awarding average marks and passing the students, citing prevailing COVID-19 pandemic situation seems to be causing more sparks to fly.
Many critics have jumped the gun over the issue without realising that the issue is not just about final year under-graduate examinations like B.Sc., B.Com or B.A. The Governor was pointing to an even more serious issue of final year students appearing for professional degree courses like – medicine, architecture, law and other professional courses.
The Governor pointed out that these students need to after passing their exams have to register themselves with their respective professional bodies or councils so as to get their license to practice. The final year course and exams for professional courses does involve internship, viva, presentations and other practical’s, where average marks based on previous year’s performance cannot become the criteria. The final year degree certificate also bears the seal and signature of the vice chancellor of the said university, for which he is equally held responsible.
One only hopes that the current stand-off does not land itself before the court of law as it had in the case of the proposal for nomination to the Governor Nominated quota seat. Then there are some who are dragging the issue of imposition of the Presidents Rule, which in the present circumstances is not the case and is a premature conjecture to make. The situation can only arise if there is clear and visible breakdown in the constitutional order.