The Supreme Court on Friday disapproved the practice of replacing governors in an “arbitrary” and “capricious” manner with the change of power at the Centre.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan held that a governor could be replaced only under “compelling” circumstances or reasons such as for proven misconduct or other irregularities. Removal of governors cannot be on political ground or malafide.
In case the removal was malafide or irregular, the court said such decision would be subject to judicial scrutiny and the court seek the reasons and explanation behind the action.
The judgment, read by one of bench members, Justice R.V. Raveendran has held that as the governor is appointed and remains in office at the President’s pleasure, he or she cannot be removed merely because they are no “in sync” with the party forming the Central Government.
During the arguments, the Centre had contended that the conflict of Governor’s view with the national policy could invite his/her removal from the office by cutting short the five-year tenure.
It had argued that the governors act as a bridge between the Centre and state governments and as such they cannot disagree with the government.
The landmark decision came on a public interest litigation, filed in 2004 by then BJP MP B.P. Singhal challenging the removal of governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Orissa by the previous UPA government.
The PIL had raised a contentious issue on whether the President can remove governors of the court states on the Centre’s advice. It said that such a decision disregarded the constitutional provision that fixed a five-year term for them.
Constitutional expert Rajiv Dhavan said: “The verdict will bring to an end the pernicious practice of using governors for petty political purposes and restore the lost dignity of the constitutional post.”
Dhavan said: “The doctrine of pleasure is an archaic concept which has lost its relevance in India.”