Amid rift with Kerala govt, Guv delivers brief speech in House | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Amid rift with Kerala govt, Guv delivers brief speech in House

ByVishnu Verma
Jan 26, 2024 07:48 AM IST

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan read only the last paragraph of his policy address, prepared by the government, during the state assembly session, leading to criticism from the opposition party. The governor's brief address lasted a few minutes, and he did not exchange pleasantries with the chief minister. The state government and governor have been at odds over various issues, including pending bills and appointments. Some experts argue that the governor's actions did not comply with constitutional requirements. The governor's speech was the shortest-ever policy address in the history of the Kerala assembly.


Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan during the customary policy address to begin the Budget Session of the State Legislative Assembly in Thiruvananthapuram. (Sreeram DK)
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan during the customary policy address to begin the Budget Session of the State Legislative Assembly in Thiruvananthapuram. (Sreeram DK)

Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Thursday took his ongoing feud with the state government to another level by reading out only the last paragraph of his speech, prepared by the government, wrapping up proceedings in a couple of minutes, an act that was criticised by the main opposition party, the Congress.

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Khan arrived at the assembly at 8.57am and was welcomed with bouquets by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and speaker AN Shamseer. He did not shake hands or exchange pleasantries with the chief minister.

Following the national anthem, governor Khan rose to begin the policy address and said: “Honourable speaker, chief minister, ministers, leader of opposition and members, it is my honour and privilege to address this august body of representatives of the people of Kerala, marking the beginning of the 10th session of the 15th Kerala Legislative Assembly.”

Then the governor flipped to the last page of the 61-page policy address and read out the last paragraph: “Let us remember that our greatest legacy lies not in buildings or monuments, but in the respect and regard we show to the priceless legacy of the Constitution of India and the timeless values of democracy, secularism, federalism and social justice. The essence of cooperative federalism is what has kept our country united and strong all these years. It is our bounden duty to ensure that this essence is not diluted. Together as part of this varied and beautiful nation, we will weave the tapestry of inclusive growth and responsible resilience, overcoming all the challenges that are thrown our way.”

He concluded his address and walked out of the assembly at 9.04 am.

Reacting to the governor’s brief address, state law minister P Rajeev said: “He has fulfilled his constitutional duty. He approved the policy address prepared by the cabinet. It’s fine to read the first and last paragraphs of the address. It is seen as having entered the assembly records. It is equal to reading the policy address. I don’t think it’s right to say that he insulted the assembly.”

Rajeev, however, said he doesn’t know why the governor chose to read only the first and last paragraphs.

A copy of the policy address, released to the media, showed that it contained criticisms of the Union government for pushing Kerala into a financial distress. “In 2023-24, the discontinuation of GST compensation, a reduction in revenue deficit grant and restrictions imposed on ‘off-budget’ borrowings of the State by the Union exacerbated the fiscal condition of the State. The State has been constrained to approach the Supreme Court for a solution to the financial impasse thrust on the State,” the address said.

The state government has been locked in a standoff with the governor over various issues, for quite some time, including the appointment of senate members in universities and Khan’s pending assent to bills cleared by the state assembly.

In November last year, the governor cleared one bill and referred seven others to President Droupadi Murmu, after the Supreme Court asked him to read its ruling on a petition filed by the Punjab government against its governor.

This came after the Kerala government moved the top court last year, stating that the governor was not discharging his constitutional duties by sitting on bills passed by the assembly inordinately.

In several non-BJP-ruled states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, there has been friction between the Raj Bhavans and the state governments over various issues.

Last year, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Punjab approached the Supreme Court, seeking directives to their respective governors over pending legislations.

The Kerala governor’s address on the opening day of an assembly session is prepared by the state government and lists its policies, plans, and achievements. Sometimes, in states ruled by parties opposed to that in the Centre, it also has paragraphs critical of the Union government.

PDT Achary, former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, opined that the governor’s move on Thursday did not comply with requirements of Article 176 of the Constitution. “Article 176 states that the governor shall address the assembly and inform the legislature of the causes of its summons. And how does he inform? It is through a speech written by the government that he has to read out. He cannot make additions or deletions to the address. By just reading the last paragraph, he is not informing the legislature of the causes of its summons,” said Achary.

“If the governor had any kind of health issues, he could have stated that and said that he was only going to read the last paragraph and the rest of the address should be taken as read,” added the constitutional expert.

Khan’s speech was the shortest-ever policy address by a governor in the history of the Kerala assembly, assembly records showed.

Leader of opposition VD Satheesan said, “We see the governor’s action as a sign of complete disrespect to the assembly. He has acted in contempt of the legislative procedures and constitutional directives. It was a sad end to the political drama between the state government and the governor in the assembly.”

Culture minister Saji Cheriyan told reporters, “The governor may have had some health issues”.

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