An Unseemly Conflict
The escalating conflict between the Chief Minister of Assam and the Governor of the State has crossed the limits of propriety. The ruling Congress has even gone on a dhar to protest some of the statements and actions of Assam Governor P.B. Acharya. The action of the ruling party of any State taking out a protest march against the Governor of the State is indeed a rare occurrence and should have been avoided at all costs. Such actions achieve little beyond underscoring an undesirable state of conflict between the head of state and the head of government in a constitutiol set-up where the two are not the same entity. In all fairness, one cannot ignore a recent statement of the Governor, where he said that the present government of Tarun Gogoi had surpassed even the Moguls and the British in looting the State. There is no denying that the statement is fairly accurate. However, one does not expect the head of state to make as damaging a comment against the head of government even if it is the truth. Governor Acharya appears to have ruffled the feathers of Tarun Gogoi and his administration by also nomiting his own chosen people as members of the Dibrugarh University court. On Monday, the Assam government accused the Governor of appointing RSS and BJP affiliated people as members of the Dibrugarh University court. There is no denying that some of the choices of members of the court made by the Governor of Assam as Chancellor of Dibrugarh University have been unfortute. Even so, the Congress is in no position to claim that in the past it has not foisted party members or supporters of the Congress as members of the Dibrugarh University court. In any case, Bharat rah, press adviser to the Chief Minister of Assam is in no position to raise objections, given his battered image of probity and total lack of credibility. Besides, one can seriously question his competence to decide who ought to be a member of the court and who oughtn’t. Filly, the Tarun Gogoi government that decided not to take any action against the Chairman of the Assam Public Service Commission for his role in the latest recruitment scam of the APSC, is peeved at the Governor’s action of summoning him on Sunday for a proper dressing down. Matters would have been much worse had the Governor permitted members of the Assam Public Works to confront Paul at Raj Bhavan. He mercifully acceded to Paul’s request that he should not be interrogated by the Assam Public Works team at Raj Bhavan.
During the last two days, there have been heated debates on the local television channels about the Governor’s prerogatives in such matters, and the question as to whether he has crossed the Lakshman rekha has been raised time and again. What is quite often overlooked is that the Lakshman rekha for a governor vis-à-vis his Council of Ministers is somewhat different from that of the President of India vis-à-vis his Council of Ministers. Article 164 of the Constitution stipulates that the Chief Minister shall be appointed by the Governor and the other ministers shall be appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister, and the ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor. Article 163 (2) says: “If any question arises whether any matter is or is not a matter as respects which the Governor is by or under this Constitution required to act in his discretion, the decision of the Governor in his discretion shall be fil and the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be called in question on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted in his discretion.” Article 163 (3) says: “The question whether any, and if so what, advice was tendered by ministers to the Governor shall not be inquired into in any court.”
Something else that is often overlooked while talking about the Lakshman rekha of the Governor is that it is the Governor who recommends the imposition of President’s rule in a State when the State has ceased to be properly administered by the elected government. If the Governor of a State were to go entirely by the advice of the Council of Ministers at all times, it would not be possible for him to recommend the imposition of President’s rule because quite obviously, the Council of Ministers would never tender the advice that the government and the Council of Ministers should be dissolved and replaced by President’s rule.