Uphold Constitutional spirit, follow customs

Uphold Constitutional spirit, follow customs

The Article 200 of Indian Constitution dealing with Assent to Bills specifies that, after the passage of the bill in the legislature of the State, it shall be presented to the Governor who in turn shall declare either he or she assents to the Bill or withholds assent or reserves the Bill for the consideration of the President.

The Article 200 of Indian Constitution dealing with Assent to Bills specifies that, after the passage of the bill in the legislature of the State, it shall be presented to the Governor who in turn shall declare either he or she assents to the Bill or withholds assent or reserves the Bill for the consideration of the President.

When the Bill is withheld, Governor may as soon as possible return the Bill together with a message requesting that the legislatureto reconsider.Withholding for a non-specified time is not spirit of Constitution or precedent of a healthy convention.

Constitutional conventions are rules of good political behavior and are typically rules of self-restraint, not exercising powers. Constitution's spirit is the Preamble, and the guiding spirit for Indian Nation on the touchstone of Basic Features of Constitution of India. The decision of Governor shall be confidential and shall remain as a secret correspondence between Governor and Chief Minister. As against this, public disclosures of a difference of opinion in press meet, perhaps, may not be a healthy convention for democracy. Constitutional experts may ponder.

The British Model of Royal Assent to Bills, if we take as an example, since India follows the Westminsterdemocratic system, lots of lessons may be learnt. Royal assent, which is more or less like Rashtrapathi at the Center and Governor in the states in India giving assent to bills passed in the legislatures, is the method by which a monarch formally approves an act of the legislature. While the Monarch has the right to refuse Royal Assent, this does not happen at all. When a Bill has been approved by a majority in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, it is formally agreed to by the Crown which turns a Bill into an Act of Parliament, allowing it to become law in the United Kingdom. In India also, the same is done either at the center by Rashtrapathi or in states by Governor.

In Britain, Parliament gradually forced monarchs to accept PM as the real executive and has effectively dispersed the powers of the Crown and strengthening PM and Parliament. Constitutional conventions have further removed the monarch from wielding power to the right to be just kept informed. The monarch whose role is nominal, will be able to advise, generally does this in secret, to change draft laws. Not in media conferences as is done by some Governors.

In this context, what would have happened, had the Monarch or the Crown of Britain, which is the mother of parliamentary democracies, chosen to take a conflicting mode of relationship in his or her functioning with the Prime Minister, the real executive? For that matter even in India, the largest parliamentary democracy in the world, what would have happened had the Rashtrapathi or President of India beginning with Dr Babu Rajendra Prasad till this day, was in conflict with Prime Minister? It would have been either collapse of democratic institutions, paving way for anarchy, or dictatorship or breakdown of constitutional mechanism. Thank God it never happened. Why then in states is there a different picture and who is responsible?

Most of the constitutional experts often quote the experience of Britain the model of which India by and large adopted.Those who are occupying constitutional positions in India, like that of Governor, mayplease glance into the genesis and evolution of British Monarch, that can be compared with Rashtrapathi of India whose relationship with Prime Minister is akin that of Governor and Chief Minister in the states. Constitutional provisions can be interpreted but conventions go a long away in maintaining relationships.

The British Monarch is the head of British state, the highest representative of the UK. Similarly, the Rashtrapathi of India, is elected by all the elected peoples' representatives of Lok Sabha and State Legislatures as well as the Rajya Sabha and thus is more representative in character, even more than Prime Minister. Along with the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the Crown is an integral part of the institution of Parliament. In India too, the Rashtrapathi is an integral part of both Houses of Parliament. Either in the case of British Monarch vis-à-vis the Prime Minister or in the case of Indian Rashtrapathi vis-à-vis Prime Minister, well laid conventions are in place. Both these institutions take little direct part in government.

This, however, is not the case with relationships between an elected Chief Minister of an Indian State and the purely nominated Governor, who irrespective of any government at center since independence, was prompted, guided and directed by the party in power. This has been the reason why many a times, if not all, quite a good number of governors actively or passively played in trouble creating role in destabilizing the duly elected state governments.Examples are plenty. Of late this has been on the increase. Hence to draw a parallel, one has to understand the history of mother of parliamentary democracies and how elected government is respected there.

The British system of government is based on an uncodified constitution, a type of constitution where the fundamental rules often take the form of customs, usage, precedent and a variety of statutes and legal instruments.The British constitution consists of many documents and most importantly for the evolution of the institutions. It is based on customs known as constitutional conventions that became accepted practice.The relationships between the Prime Minister and the sovereign, Parliament and Cabinet are defined largely by these unwritten conventions of the constitution. And hence never there was a friction in the real sense.

Fortunately, the same is the case with Union government in India. None of the Presidents ever resorted to dismissals of governments at the center by invoking discretionary powers, the way few Governors (Prompted by center) did in states. None of the Presidents including those elected during one party in power and continued later after a different party came to power like Neelam Sanjiva Reddy or like Pranab Mukherji, were controversial in discharging their duties and responsibilities. Why not the same with governors is a million Dollar question.

Many of the British Prime Ministers' executive and legislative powers are actually royal prerogatives, but continue to derive from historic and modern constitutional conventions, which are still formally vested in the sovereign, but as a mere formality. The sovereign who has the power to appoint the Prime Minister appoints an individual who commands the support of the House of Commons, usually the leader of the party or coalition that has a majority in that House. Same is the practice in India.

The British sovereign's authority to dismiss the Prime Minister, never ever happened except once in 1834, when William IV dismissed Lord Melbourne. Since then, Prime Ministers have only left office upon their resignation, which they are expected to offer to the monarch upon losing their majority in the House of Commons. Similarly, by convention, appointing and dismissing other ministers is done only on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

The position of Prime Minister was not created. It evolved slowly and organically over three hundred years due to numerous Acts of Parliament, Constitutional conventions, political developments, and accidents of history. The office is therefore best understood from a historical perspective. Although the sovereign was not stripped of their ancient prerogative powers and legally remained the head of government, politically it gradually became necessary for him or her to govern through a Prime Minister. When this could happen to a monarch why not to governor?

It is high time that the Governors in India take a leaf out of British Model and modify functioning of institution of Governor and start feeling that conventions and constitutional spirit is more important than mere provisions. It is better if Governors follow the footsteps of Presidents of India, if not British Monarch, in maintaining cordial, healthy and democratic relations with the elected executive heads to uphold the democratic spirit of country.

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