Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan often quotes from the oath he has taken and claims that his job is to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law” but his behaviour of late triggers the doubt if he has understood the constitutional scheme regarding the role of a governor in the affairs of a state.
The latest episode of Mr Khan politicising his gubernatorial role started when complaints were raised against the appointment of a relative of a person in the chief minister’s office in Kannur University. The law empowers the governor as chancellor of the university to cancel the appointment if he finds it irregular. But Mr Khan, instead of pursuing the legal route available to him, announced that he will get all the appointments of relatives of politicians in universities investigated. There is nothing in the law that bars appointment of relatives of politicians in universities; nor is there a provision that empowers him to order such an inquiry. It is for Mr Khan to explain why he made such an announcement.
The governor is justifiably peeved at the interruption of his speech at the Indian History Congress held in Kannur in 2019 by participants who protested against his position on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, but to allege that there was a conspiracy to physically assault him at the event defies logic. The conspirators, according to Mr Khan, included nonagenarian historian Irfan Habib, whom he called a “goonda”! Mr Khan claimed that he has proof to establish his charge but has produced none.
Constitution-makers envisaged the role of a governor as an elder statesman who can counsel the government and ensure that the state is run as per the provisions of the Constitution. Politicisation and personalisation of events would have been the last thing in their mind. Mr Khan must realise that a governor is not the ruler of the state and show respect to the oath he has taken — that he shall devote himself to the service and well-being of the people of the state, instead of making disparaging comments on their political orientation.