AA Edit | DMK mantri takes oath; law wins

Governor R.N. Ravi's reluctant oath: A testament to the enduring power of democratic norms.

The reluctant swearing in of Mr K. Ponmudi as Tamil Nadu minister for higher education, electronics, science and technology by governor R.N. Ravi on Friday is a victory for democracy in the state where the elected government gets vilified regularly by the nominated gubernatorial incumbent. As someone with a habit of taking an adversarial stand against the DMK government on anything and everything possible, Mr Ravi had said a firm no to re-inducting Mr Ponmudi after the Supreme Court had stayed, but not set aside, his conviction that originally led to his resignation.

Assembly Speaker, M. Appavu, had restored Mr Ponmudy’s membership of the Thirukovillur Assembly constituency after the Supreme Court stay and the Election Commission of India had not called for a by-election to the constituency along with the Lok Sabha polls. Still, a recalcitrant Mr Ravi stood out, rejecting chief minister M.K. Stalin’s request to reinstate Mr Ponmudy, triggering yet another controversy.

Not one new to creating such constitutional crises, Mr Ravi had in June 2023, dismissed another state minister V. Senthil Balaji after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a money-laundering complaint. He then put in abeyance that dismissal though Mr Stalin had clearly pointed out that he had no powers to dismiss ministers. It’s a different matter that Mr Senthil Balaji resigned on his own subsequently.

The governor, with his penchant for sitting on bills passed by the state Assembly and habitually interfering with the cultural and literary moorings of the state, has drawn the judicial ire several times and was rapped on the knuckles once again for his interpretation of the Constitution and self-styled invocation of democratic values in the Mr Ponmudi episode. It left him with no option other than to do what he did not want to do. While it is tragic that the persistent refusal to follow the rules in the discharge of duties at Raj Bhavan and attempts to run a parallel government have not cost Mr Ravi his job yet, it is heartening to note that the judiciary has prevented him from completely derailing democracy.

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