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Governor’s role in approving a Bill

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 10, Feb 2022
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The Tamil Nadu Assembly has once again adopted a Bill that was earlier returned by Governor R.N. Ravi. 

  • The Bill seeks to grant exemption from the mandatory National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test (NEET) for seats allotted by the Government in undergraduate medical and dental courses in Tamil Nadu. 
  • Recently, the Governor returned the Bill, contending that it was against the interests of rural and poor students.

What comes next?

  • Under Article 200, the Governor may 
    • (a) grant assent 
    • (b) withhold assent 
    • (c) return for reconsideration by the Legislature or 
    • (d) reserve for the consideration of the President any Bill passed by the State legislature and presented to him for assent.
  • There is no timeframe fixed in the Constitution for any of these functions. 
  • If the State legislature reconsiders the bill and passes it again, with or without changes, and presented for assent, “the Governor shall not withhold assent therefrom”.
  • The Constitution makes it mandatory that the Governor should reserve for the President’s consideration if, in his opinion (discretionary power) any Bill that seems to clip the wings of the High Court or undermine its functioning.
  • In the present case, the Bill will have to be sent to the President for his assent, as it is enacted under an entry in the Concurrent List on a subject that is covered by a central law. There is no doubt that the Governor will now have to grant his assent to the Bill. 
  • NEET is mandatory under Section 10D of the Indian Medical Council of India Act, an amendment introduced in 2016. Therefore, the State law can be in force only if the President grants his assent. This will cure the ‘repugnancy’ between the central and State laws.

What happens when the President considers the Bill?

  • Once again, there is no timeframe. 
  • Article 201 says when a Bill is reserved by a Governor for his consideration, “the President shall declare either that he assents to the Bill, or that he withholds assent therefrom”. He may also direct the Governor to return the Bill, if it is not a Money Bill, to the Legislature along with a message. 
  • State Legislature will have to reconsider the Bill within a period of six months from receiving it. It may pass the Bill again with or without any change. 
  • The Bill shall again be presented to the President for his consideration. The article ends with that. This means that the Bill will become law if the assent is given, but nothing can be done if the Bill is denied assent by the President or if he makes no decision.

Does the Governor have any discretion in this regard?

  • Section 75 of the Government of India Act, 1935, contained the words ‘in his discretion’ while referring to the Governor’s grant of assent to Bills. The phrase was consciously omitted when Article 175 in the draft Constitution (later renumbered as the present Article 200) was enacted. 
  • It is generally agreed that the Governor, who normally functions on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, is bound to go by the advice in the matter of granting assent. 
  • Also, a reading of the Constituent Assembly debates shows that framers of the Constitution intended that Governor should act on ministerial advice even when withholding assent and returning a Bill for reconsideration. Such a situation may arise when a bill has been hastily adopted or that it requires changes
    • In such a situation, the Constitution must provide for the possibility that the Council may want to recall its Bill, and accordingly advise the Governor to return it.
  • Sarkaria Commission notes that there could be occasions for even withholding assent on the advice of the Ministers. For instance, if after a Bill is passed the Ministers resign before the Bill gets the Governor’s assent, the new Ministry may not want to go ahead with the Bill and might advise against assent being given. 
  • These examples suggest that no discretion was ever envisaged for the Governor in dealing with Bills.