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Karnataka governor cannot use discretion in an arbitrary manner: Opinion

The governor must have had very strong reasons to discard that and prefer the single-largest party that claims support of 105 MLAs, which is well short of the majority.

india Updated: May 16, 2018 23:31 IST
Sanjay Hegde
Sanjay Hegde
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Vajubhai Vala,Karnataka Governor,Karnataka
Vajubhai Vala takes oath as Karnataka’s governor.(PTI File Photo)

As far as the role of the governor in government formation in Karnataka is concerned, I believe, the governor’s sole job is to decide who is likely to command confidence of the house and invite that lot to form the government. The governor does not have unguided discretion in this regard.

In Karnataka, we have a case where 116 MLAs, who support one side — and that is the figure above the majority mark — staked claim to form the government in the state.

The governor must have had very strong reasons to discard that and prefer the single-largest party that claims support of 105 MLAs, which is well short of the majority.

Now that he has invited the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the single-largest party, the new chief minister, after swearing in, should have been given a very short time to prove majority in the house.

In no event, should the governor give the impression that his office and his discretion have been used to facilitate horse trading.

There are a few Constitutional precedents that come to mind when we talk about this issue — take the case of Sanjeeva Reddy. He was severely criticised for not inviting Jagjivan Ram to form a government after the Charan Singh government fell in 1980.

The Congress lost the 1989 election, but emerging as single-largest party, refused to stake claim to form the government. President Shankar Dayal Sharma invited Atal Bihari Vajypee, leader of single-largest party to form a government in 1996, and that government fell on the floor of the house in 13 days. Thereafter a combination of the United Front was called.

Then there was Buta Singh, who in 2005 ever called any one in a hung assembly in Bihar to form the government and earned the censure from the Supreme Court.

Therefore it is clear that the head of state, while he has discretion, cannot use the discretion in an arbitrary manner or in a manner favouring one side.

The author is a senior advocate in the Supreme Court
(As told to Ashok bagriya)

First Published: May 16, 2018 23:28 IST