The legal opinion sought from former Advocate General of Maharashtra Shreehari Aney in November 2017 endorses the Governor’s meeting with district officials.

TN Governor says he is authorised to meet officials releases legal opinion
news Politics Tuesday, June 26, 2018 - 19:45

Under fire from the Opposition in Tamil Nadu and the media over Governor Banwarilal Purohit’s meeting with district officials, the Raj Bhavan in an unprecedented move on Tuesday released a legal opinion on the matter.

Observing that the Raj Bhavan has been following media discussions of the Governor’s district visits, its statement reads, “It appears that in the interest of ensuring a comprehensive appreciation, the right legal position needs further elucidation.” The Raj Bhavan attached the legal opinion sought from the former Advocate General of Maharashtra Shreehari Aney in November 2017.

The opinion, annexed to the press release, was obtained after the Governor visited Coimbatore on November 14, 2017 and met with the District Collector, heads of the departments and the district administration. The Governor’s meeting with district officials had triggered a controversy, with questions of constitutional overreach being raised.  

The legal opinion endorses the actions of the Governor travelling to districts and meeting officials.

Role of Governor mistakenly perceived as ornamental

Through his six-page document, Aney attempts to prove that despite the role of Governor being “mistakenly perceived” as purely ornamental, there are “several provisions in the Constitution that stipulate otherwise”.

The document says that the Governor was shown a powerpoint presentation about the district and the various developmental activities carried out by the administration in the district.

“In his address which followed thereafter, the Querist (Governor) appreciated the work done by the District administration in connection with various programmes and schemes of the Government, and, with a view to motivating the staff, urged them to discharge their duties for greater public good,” it states.

The document goes on to mention how the media reported this action by the Governor and how the Opposition parties were critical about him holding such a meeting. “The ruling party, however, supported the Querist and did not find anything objectionable in this course of action,” it says.

Aney first provides a historical perspective as to why the post of a Governor was decided to be a nominated one instead of an elected one. It specifies that it was former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who favoured the option of nomination since electing a Governor might pose a source of ‘separatist tendencies’. His views were then endorsed by Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar and Dr BR Ambedkar.

The former Advocate General argues that Article 154 (1) of the Constitution confers Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers to the Governor.

“The position of the Governor as the titular head of the State is because his office is the common repository of these otherwise distinct powers. Thus, when one considers the requirements for implementation of separation of powers, the position of Governor becomes complex and unique,” states Aney.  

While noting that Governor exercises his powers largely on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, the former Advocate General states the Constitution also authorises the Governor to act independently.

Point by point rebuttal

Countering the criticism that Governor was interfering with the state’s executive, Aney argues that the “same powers are available to the State which are available to the Governor”. The legal opinion offered also points out that the “executive arm of the government was fully aware of the Governor’s proposed action”. This as the concerned Minister was not only aware of the meeting but had found nothing wrong in the Governor holding the meeting.

He also argues that the fact that the Minister confessed to being aware of the Governor’s action is considered a ratification of the action and thus makes the criticism of his actions invalid.

Addressing the allegation that the Governor was interfering at the behest of the Central government and misusing the office of the Governor by interfering in the affairs of the state, Aney offers several counterarguments.

The former Advocate General called it a “bald allegation unsupported by facts whatsoever”. He further advices the Governor, “In the absence of any factual basis, the allegation can and should be ignored. I would advise the Querist not to give reply to this allegation, save and except to assert that it is false and unsupported by facts.”  

The second counterargument that Aney provides is that by undertaking these trips, the Governor was acquainting himself with the true state of affairs of Tamil Nadu. In later statements and interviews with the press, Governor Purohit has argued that his district tour was nothing but a familiarisation exercise.

Arguing that the Governor’s meeting cannot be considered illegal or overreach, Aney states the Governor did not attempt to “review the workings of the department, or criticise or comment on the work done.”

Also dismissing the charge that there was no precedent for the Governor’s actions, he points out that Purohit as Governor of Assam had held such meetings with the district administration there.

“Every precedent must, at some time in the distant past, have been an act that was performed for the first time. Its repetition over the years gave it the character of precedent,” states the former Advocate General.

Read: Black flags and a threat: Why Opposition in TN is up in arms against Governor Purohit 

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.