The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, November 29, pulled up Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan for the prolonged delay in approving bills passed by the state legislative Assembly. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra emphasised that there was no reason for delaying eight bills for a two-year period.
The court underscored that the power of the Governor cannot be used to pause the legislative process of lawmaking by the state legislature. The bench also said that it would consider laying down guidelines on when a Governor can send Bills to the President. The court was hearing a petition filed by the Kerala government against the Governor’s inaction about the bills.
Senior Advocate and former Attorney General for India KK Venugopal, arguing for the Kerala government, informed the court that after the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Governor in the case, he cleared one bill and referred the other seven bills to the President. "For two years a welfare bill is not allowed to be law. The governance of the state is suffering. This is adversarial. Unless your lordships step in very strongly, it will affect citizens," Venugopal argued and sought the court permission to amend its petition so as to seek guidelines.
Observing that the Governor and the court had an accountability in the matter, it allowed the Kerala government to amend its plea. "We have to keep the matter pending. We thought of disposing the plea.. but it will not be proper. If we dispose of this petition, how will they move a fresh petition for guidelines? We have eight live bills and if we dispose of this bill then we will do a disservice to the petition. Let them amend the petition,” the court ruled.
On Tuesday, a day prior to the hearing, Arif Muhammed Khan forwarded seven Bills to the President for consideration and granted approval for one additional Bill. On November 24, the Supreme Court advised Khan to refer its judgment in the Punjab Governor case, outlining a Governor's powers and duties concerning bills from the state Assembly.
The Kerala government, in its petition, revealed that eight bills awaited the Governor's assent, with three languishing for over two years and three for more than a year. The government argued that Governors should realise that they are a part of the state legislature under Article 168 of the Constitution. The petition said as many as eight bills are pending assent with Governor Arif Khan for a period ranging between seven to 23 months. "The conduct of the Governor, as would presently be demonstrated, threatens to defeat and subvert the very fundamentals and basic foundations of our Constitution, including the rule of law and democratic good governance," the Kerala governmentś petition read.
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