Tamil Nadu passes resolution seeking timeframe for Governors to clear bills

By, Chennai
Apr 11, 2023 04:58 AM IST

The adoption of the resolution came days after the governor’s remarks that bills, which are withheld, should be considered “dead” sparked a political row.

The Tamil Nadu assembly on Monday adopted a resolution to urge the Centre and President to fix a timeframe for governors to approve bills adopted by the House, in a move that is likely to further strain ties between the M K Stalin-led government and governor R N Ravi.

 Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin speaks during the Budget Session of the State Assembly, in Chennai on Monday. (ANI Photo) (ANI)
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin speaks during the Budget Session of the State Assembly, in Chennai on Monday. (ANI Photo) (ANI)

The adoption of the resolution came days after the governor’s remarks that bills, which are withheld, should be considered “dead” sparked a political row, with the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) accusing him of “creating unnecessary tension, controversies and social upheaval” in the state.

The governor is yet to give his assent to nearly 20 bills cleared by the state cabinet since he took office in September 2021.

While there was no immediate reaction available from Raj Bhavan on the resolution, officials later in the day said Ravi had given his assent to a pending bill banning online gambling.

On Monday, chief minister M K Stalin moved a resolution in the assembly, urging the Union government to “advise” the governor to give his assent to the bills in a time-bound manner.

Moving the resolution, Stalin accused the governor of not approving certain bills due to his “whims and fancies”. He also accused the governor of converting Raj Bhavan into a “political bhavan” and of acting against the welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu.

“I will not say that the governor doesn’t know the Constitution. But, his political allegiance has swallowed his loyalty to the Constitution,” Stalin said and cautioned that he would not remain idle if the governor continued to target his government for political reasons.

Stalin also accused Ravi of intentionally speaking against the state government on the eve of Primer Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tamil Nadu or on a day before his (Stalin’s) visit to the national capital to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Governors should engage in healthy discussions with the government but not discuss administrative issues in a public forum, Stalin said. “He (Ravi) is belittling the government’s policies, feelings of the Tamils, the sovereignty of the Legislative Assembly and the bills adopted by the House in the interest and welfare of the people,” he said, adding that the governor is going beyond his position and is speaking like a politician.

The resolution, which also recorded the bills kept pending by the governor, said: “... this august House urges the Union government and the President to prescribe a specific time limit to the respective governors to give assent to the bills passed by the legislatures, which are the voice of the people of the state.”

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was not present in the House when the resolution was passed as it had staged a walkout, earlier in the day, over an issue pertaining to the law and order in the state.

The lone Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member in the assembly walked out when the resolution was tabled by the DMK.

“We walked out from the assembly because they are moving a resolution against our governor RN Ravi. They are always creating issues against the BJP,” BJP MLA from Nagercoil MR Gandhi told ANI.

Another BJP MLA C Saraswathi said the DMK government’s resolution is against the governor’s freedom of speech. “They are moving a resolution against the governor’s speech. It is against the freedom of speech,” Saraswathi said.

Both the state government and governor have been locked in a standoff over various issues for quite some time, including the latter’s pending assent to nearly 20 bills. Of the nearly 20 bills, governor Ravi returned two to the House.

The Undergraduate Medical Courses, 2021 Bill, which seeks to abolish the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), was returned last February for reconsideration.

The Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Games Bill, which seeks to ban online gambling, was returned in March this year as the governor contended that the state assembly is not competent to frame a law on the subject.

The state assembly re-adopted both these bills for the second time and has sent it to the governor for his assent. While the anti-NEET bill is with the ministry of home affairs, the bill against online gambling was cleared by Raj Bhavan on Monday, officials said.

According to the Constitution, the governor cannot reject a bill sent by the assembly. He can return a bill to the government with his objections or observations and if the assembly clears it for a second time, he can either give his consent or forward the bill for the President’s consideration. However, the Constitution does not provide a timeframe for the governor to decide on either of the two.

On April 6, Ravi stoked controversy when he said that the governor has three options when he has to give his assent to a bill. “One, assent; second, withhold the assent – withholding doesn’t mean that I am holding it. Withholding has been defined by the Supreme Court as the bill falls through, the bill is dead. It is a decent language used instead of the word ‘reject’. When you say ‘withhold’, the bill is dead. Third option, the governor reserves the bill for the President of India,” he said during an interaction with civil service aspirants at Raj Bhavan.

His comments came under fire from the DMK government with Stalin saying it was “unbecoming” of a person who holds a Constitutional position to “withhold without boldly accepting or opposing” the bills.

The DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance in the state has also decided to hold a protest in front of Raj Bhavan on April 14.

(With agency inputs)

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