'What is Governor doing?': SC slams TN Guv Ravi for refusing to re-induct Ponmudy as Minister

“The Governor has no business to tell us that this does not wipe off the conviction and it is non-existent,” CJI Chandrachud told AG Venkatramani.
'What is Governor doing?': SC slams TN Guv Ravi for refusing to re-induct Ponmudy as Minister
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The Supreme Court, on Thursday, March 21, came down heavily on Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi for refusing to re-induct K Ponmudy as a Minister in the state Cabinet. Giving a day’s time to the Governor for responding, the court said, “We are seriously concerned about the conduct of the Governor, we did not want to say it out loud in court but he is defying the Supreme Court of India.”

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra was hearing an application by the Tamil Nadu government against Governor Ravi’s refusal to reinstate Ponmudy as a Minister. The Governor, on March 17, refused to accept chief minister MK Stalin’s recommendation to re-appoint K Ponmudy as a minister, even after his jail term was suspended and conviction stayed by the apex court.

“Mr Attorney General, what is your Governor doing? The conviction has been stayed by the Supreme Court and the Governor says he won't swear him in! We will have to make some serious observations. Please tell your governor, we are going to take a serious view of it.. If we don't hear in a positive manner by tomorrow setting the Constitutional position right, then we have to pass an order. We have to pass an order then,” the CJI told Attorney General for India R Venkataramani.

The judge also stated that if a “the Governor has to be informed that when the SC of India stays a conviction, it stays a conviction.” “When a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court stays a conviction, the Governor has no business to tell us that this does not wipe off the conviction and it is non-existent. That means, those who have advised him have not advised him correctly in accordance with law,” the CJI said.

The AG raised technical objections to the plea stating that an interlocutory application was moved in an existent petition on a different issue and questioned how fundamental right of a state was violated. However, the CJI questioned, “Mr Attorney if the governor does not follow the constitution, what does the Government do”. 

The CJI also said that if a Chief Minister wants to appoint a person as a Minister, the Governor should do it as part of the parliamentary democracy as he's a ceremonial head of the state. “How can the governor say that swearing in would be contrary to Constitutional morality ? Is that the best argument of the Governor that I will defend by constitutionally illegal conduct by pointing fingers at the government?” the CJI asked.

Justice Pardiwala observed that if the substantive order of conviction is stayed, there is no conviction. “Once there is no conviction, you cannot say that ‘you are tainted’; there is no blemish.”

In an official communication sent from the Raj Bhavan rejecting the CM’s request to re-instate Ponmudy, the Governor had said that Ponmudy was “tainted of corruption” and so “re-induction as minister would be against constitutional morality”. The Tamil Nadu government moved the top court through an interlocutory application in the writ petition that was earlier filed against the Governor over prolonged delay in assenting to bills. The state contended that Ravi was “acting as if he was a super appellate authority” and his refusal was a ”blatant violation” of the court’s order.

Former Minister Ponmudy and his wife Visalakshi were convicted by Madras HC in a disproportionate assets case in December 2023, and were sentenced to three years in prison. He was disqualified as an MLA and a Minister as per section 8(3) of Representation of the People Act 1951, which says that a person convicted for various offences, including provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, shall be disqualified for a period of six years. He was immediately disqualified as an MLA and a Minister. Following this, Ponmudy approached the SC, which suspended the sentence and stayed the conviction. The state government revoked the decision to disqualify him as an MLA and requested the Governor to instate Ponmudy as a Minister.

Read: Why DMK Minister K Ponmudy stands disqualified as an MLA

This is the third time that the Supreme Court heavily slams Governor Ravi. In December last year, the SC pulled up Governor Ravi for returning 10 bills, that were re-passed by the Assembly, to the President for assent. The court questioned why the Governor referred the bills to the President after withholding his assent initially. In November 2023, CJI DY Chandrachud said that it was a “matter of serious concern” that Ravi delayed assenting to the Bills passed by the state legislature. 

Read: ‘RN Ravi positioning himself as political rival’: TN govt moves Supreme Court against delay in assent for bills

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