Union home secretary Anil Goswami on Friday created a controversy when he wrote to the Haryana chief secretary, seeking withdrawal of assent by governor Jagannath Pahadia to the contentious Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) legislation. Chief secretary Satish Chandra Choudhary, however, stated that once a bill had got the governor’s assent, it became a law and the assent then could not be withdrawn.
The Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Bill 2014, which was passed by the state assembly on July 11, got the governor’s nod on July 14. Consequently, the bill became an Act (law).
Choudhary said he found the union home secretary’s communication “very funny”. “Once a bill has become a law, the governor’s assent cannot be withdrawn. The Constitution has no provision for withdrawal of assent. Either the state legislature can repeal, modify or amend an Act or the courts can strike down the legislation,” he said.
When asked about the state government’s response, the chief secretary said they would think on whether or not to reply to the union home secretary’s letter. “I find it very amusing that the union home secretary has passed a judgment on the wisdom of the state legislature and the governor,” he said.
Choudhary said the Karnataka high court had clearly stated in one of its verdicts that if the governor approved a bill or an Act, it could not be withdrawn.
Quoting the legal advice of the attorney general, the union home secretary, in the July 18 communication to the chief secretary, said: “Before any complication arises, the Haryana government may bring the facts to the kind notice of the governor and request him to withdraw the assent given by him to the bill in view of the fact that the state legislature had no legislative competence. The bill passed is void and of no legal effect.”
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, in his advice, said the state government was denuded of any jurisdiction to pass any bill in respect of which Parliament had exclusive power to enact a law. Rohtagi said the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, fell within the Union List.
“The law is already in place since 1925 (Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925) and there is no justification for the Haryana assembly to have passed a law on the same subject matter, taking away the jurisdiction of the board/corporation on the basis of the 1925 Act. In fact, by virtue of Section 54, the Haryana legislature has declared that the provisions of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, shall not apply within the territory of Haryana,” the attorney general said.