The Supreme Court has put all doubts to rest in its interpretation of Article 200 and underscored the paramountcy of popular will
The Supreme Court has brought clarity to a grey area in the Constitution by observing that the expression “as soon as possible” in Article 200 of the Constitution, which deals with the governors giving asset to the bills passed by state legislatures, “has significant constitutional intent and must be borne into mind”.
The Constitution gives the governors three choices with respect to bills presented to them: to give assent, to withhold it or to refer to the President under certain specific circumstances. The provision for returning a bill comes in the ambit of the second choice, that is to withhold it. The court has observed that bills should be returned “as soon as possible”.
Some governors have chosen to interpret the clause “to withhold the assent” as if they have a constitutional mandate to withhold it for infinite time. Governors in several states where the governments are run by parties in camps opposite to that of the ruling dispensation at the Centre use this provision to make law-making and constitutional governance extremely difficult by their refusal to sign into law bills passed by the legislatures.
The present case in the Supreme Court pertains to the Telangana governor signing some bills and keeping some others on hold. The Kerala governor would publicly raise doubts about the constitutional validity of the bills and sit on them for a period of his choice. The governor of Tamil Nadu would go to the extent of saying that a bill, which has been withheld for long, is as good as dead.
The Supreme Court has put all doubts to rest in its interpretation of Article 200 and underscored the paramountcy of popular will which gets reflected in sovereign legislatures. It also means that it is not open to appointee governors to sit in judgment over the wisdom of the elected legislatures; it is the job of the people or for the constitutional courts.
It’s time recalcitrant governors realised the limits of their powers under the Constitution and realigned their ideas with those of democracy.