Kerala’s Governor Arif Mohammed Khan recently threatened to sack ministers who “lowered the dignity” of his office. The Governor tweeted from his tweeter handle “the CM and Council of Ministers have every right to advise Governor but statements of individual ministers that lower the dignity of the office of the Governor, can invite action including withdrawal of pleasure”. There has been no occasion so far of a Governor unilaterally removing a minister from the government.

 

Governor’s role in parliamentary system

  • The position, role, powers, and conditions of office of the Governor are described in Articles 153-161 of the Constitution.
  • The Governor is the chief executive head of the state. But, like the President, he is a nominal executive head (titular or constitutional head).
  • Being the head of the state’s executive power, he acts on the advice of the council of ministers, barring some matters.
    • The council of ministers, in turn, are responsible to the state legislature.
  • Being appointed by the President, the Governor acts as a vital link between the Union and the state governments.
  • The Governor appoints the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers.

 

Does a Governor have the power to remove a Minister?

  • Article 164(1) says state “Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor”.
  • However, Constitutional experts say the Governor cannot remove a minister in their own capacity without obtaining the sanction of the Chief Minister or consulting with the latter.
  • If a Governor removes a minister in their own capacity, that will result in ‘parallel governance’.
  • Only when the Chief Minister allows it, then the Governor is empowered to remove the minister.

 

Important Judgements w.r.t. appointment/removal of Council of Ministers

  • Shamsher Singh & Anr vs State Of Punjab (1974) —
    • The Supreme Court held that the President and Governor shall exercise their formal constitutional powers only upon and in accordance with the advice of their Ministers except in a few well known exceptional situations.
    • The Court also added that even in case of the Prime Minister/Chief Minister cease to command majority in the House OR the government loses majority but refuses to quit office OR for “the dissolution of the House where an appeal to the country is necessitous” —
      • The Head of the State (President/Governor) should avoid getting involved in politics and must be advised by his Prime Minister (Chief Minister) who will eventually take the responsibility for the step.
  • Nabam Rebia And Etc. vs Deputy Speaker And Ors (2016) —
  • The Supreme Court cited the observations of B R Ambedkar – “The Governor under the Constitution has no function which he can discharge by himself; no functions at all. While he has no functions, he has certain duties to perform, and I think the House will do well to bear in mind this distinction.”

 

Recommendations of various Commissions on Governors

  • Sarkaria Commission (1983) —
      • The Commission was set-up to look into Centre-state relations. It has proposed various additional criteria for appointing someone to the Governorship.
      • It proposed that the Governors be appointed after effective consultations with the State Chief Minister and Vice President and Speaker of the Lok Sabha should be consulted by the PM before his/her selection.
  • National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2000) —
      • The Commission recommended significant changes in the selection of Governors.
      • The Commission suggested that the “Governor of a State should be appointed by the President, after consultation with the Chief Minister of that State”.
  • Punchi Commission (2007) —
      • The Commission proposed that a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Vice President, Speaker, and the concerned Chief Minister should choose the Governor.
      • It further recommended deleting the “Doctrine of Pleasure” from the Constitution, but backed the right of the Governor to sanction the prosecution of ministers against the advice of the state government.
      • It also argued for a provision for impeachment of the Governor by the state legislature.