Bengal governor calls all-party meet over 2 bills
West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar invited on Monday West Bengal chief minister and leaders of all the legislature parties for a meeting at his office on January 17, to discuss the two bills that have been cleared by the Assembly and were awaiting his approval.
“@MamataOfficial. I have invited leaders of the Legislature Parties in the Legislative Assembly on 17.1.2020 at 12 noon at Raj Bhavan, Kolkata as regards pendency of West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019 and West Bengal State Commission for SC and ST Bill, 2019,” Dhankar said in a Twitter post, accompanied with a three-page letter.
In the letter, Dhankhar elaborated on his points of concerns, saying: “In spite of repeated serious efforts at my end, the requisite information is not forthcoming and that has resulted in further appropriate consideration of the Bill in terms of the Constitution.”
The two bills in question were passed by the Assembly on August 30 last year.
In another tweet, he said: “@MamataOfficial The step has been taken for this meeting as on one hand the inputs are not being made available and on the other hand, total factually untenable information is being put in public domain both at the level of the Assembly as also the State Government.”
CPI(M)’s Sujan Chakraborty, who along with Congress’s Abdul Mannan had brought up discrepancies in the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill to the governor’s notice in September, said he would be unable to attend the meeting due to a prior engagement. “We have no reservation in meeting the governor but I will be in Kerala on that day,” he said.
Mannan, too, said he would be in New Delhi on that day.
“The governor’s move, inviting all-party meeting to discuss a Bill, is not unconstitutional but unprecedented. We don’t think it is right to take one unprecedented step after another. In any case, we don’t want to do anything that could widen the rift between the government and the governor. So, we will discuss it within our party,” Mannan said.
Revolutionary Socialist Party’s Biswanath Chowdhury said a decision about attending the meeting would be taken “at the Left Front level”. “I personally would not be able to make it to the meet due to my poor health,” Chowdhury said.
Manoj Tigga, leader of BJP’s legislative party, said he would readily accept the invitation once he received it.
TMC did not respond to repeated attempts to seek comments.
Constitution expert Subhas Kashyap said the governor’s move was “unusual” but “not unconstitutional”. “It is unusual for a governor to call all party meetings to discuss a Bill passed by the legislature. But he is within his legal rights to withhold giving his signature to the Bill. He can also send it to the Centre for its consideration...,” he said.
Barrister Anindya Mitra, former advocate general of West Bengal, said: “If the governor is not satisfied with any bill he can ask the ruling party for clarifications. If he is still not satisfied he can send it back to the assembly. But if the assembly sends it back, he is bound to sign it.”