Notwithstanding allegations of political vendetta in the sacking of Mizoram governor Kamla Beniwal, it will be difficult for her to legally challenge the decision in view of the serious charges of misuse of office.
Beniwal, who was transferred from Gujarat to Mizoram last month, had a running feud with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his tenure as chief minister of the western state.
According to Article 156(1) of the Constitution, “The governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.”
A five-judge Constitution Bench had on May 16, 2010 upheld the President’s power to remove a governor from office at any time without assigning any reason and without giving any opportunity to show cause.
In fact once a decision for removal of a governor is taken, there is very little that courts can do.
“As there is no need to assign reasons, any removal as a consequence of withdrawal of the pleasure will be assumed to be valid and will be open to only a limited judicial review,” it had ruled.
The ruling had come on a PIL filed by BP Singhal challenging the UPA-I government’s July 2, 2004 decision to remove NDA-appointed governor’s of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Goa. Singhal wanted the SC to direct the government to allow the governors to complete the remainder of their five-year term.
The SC had, however, had also said, “change in government at Centre is not a ground for removal of governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government.”
The SC had also said, “Though no reason need be assigned for discontinuance of the pleasure resulting in removal, the power under Article 156(1) cannot be exercised in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner. The power will have to be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reasons.”
However, what would constitute compelling reasons would depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the SC had clarified.
But courts would be in a position to interfere with the decision of removal only “If the aggrieved person is able to demonstrate prima facie that his removal was either arbitrary, malafide, capricious or whimsical...”
In such a situation the court will call upon the Union Government to disclose to it the material upon which the President had taken the decision to withdraw the pleasure.
But with the government alleging misuse of governor’s office in Gujarat to make several unauthorised air travels (including those to her home state Rajasthan) at the expense of the exchequer, it would be difficult for Beniwal to assail the sacking order in courts. More so because the SC has ruled that removal of a governor will be open to only a limited judicial review.