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Home > News > Report

Should K'taka Governor have sought Prez rule?

Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore | October 09, 2007 17:11 IST
Last Updated: October 09, 2007 18:50 IST

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Karnataka politics has reached a point of no return.

Governor Rameshwar Thakur has recommended the dissolution of the House and imposition of President's rule in Karnataka. While politicking has gone quiet, there is a raging debate on whether the Governor acted in haste or were his actions in accordance with law.

A section of the constitutional experts that spoke to felt that the Governor had waited enough and had to take the inevitable decision. However, there were others who felt that the decision was politically motivated and wrong in the eyes of the law.

Senior counsel Anand Varma feels the Governor's decision could have been delayed further.

"What was the necessity of recommending the dissolution of the house? There were 20 months remaining for the government. I feel the Governor should have kept the House under suspended animation and then awaited ratification by the Cabinet. The SR Bommai judgment stated in clear terms that an assembly cannot be dissolved straight away.

[The SR Bommai vs Centre case: The judgment, delivered by the Supreme Court on May 11, 1994, defined the use of Article 356 and imposition of President's rule. When the then Congress government at the Centre dismissed the S R Bommai government in Karnataka in 1989, Bommai challenged the dismissal.

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court held that a state government could be dismissed only under extenuating circumstances, and laid down guidelines for such a dismissal.

Though political parties have flouted the Supreme Court norms, the Bommai case has made dismissing state governments and imposing President's rule a little more difficult.

"The Governor should have found out whether there was any possibility of a formation of a government before taking such a hasty decision. He should have waited at least two more months before making such a drastic recommendation. Let us not forget that this is a democracy and such decisions of importance should be made only when there is a breakdown of the state's machinery."

Professor Ravi Varma Kumar, senior counsel, differs. He feels that the Governor has proceeded in the right direction. The Governor could have had unimpeachable material and authentic information that there was no chance of any sort of alignment or realignment of political parties in the state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party had given him a letter seeking dismissal of the government, then the Congress went up to him and said that they had no intention of forming the government. Finally Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy met the Governor and told him that he did not have the requisite strength to run the government. Moreover, all the three political parties have had a taste of power and the party in the third spot, JDS has enjoyed power twice.

With all these factors, I feel that it was the right decision by the Governor. I also feel that his actions will not earn the wrath of the Bommai verdict, as his decision has been in a fair manner after giving ample opportunity.

Senior Counsel M D Singh says, "I feel that he has had a lucky escape, especially with no political party making any fuss about his decision. There were indications that the two political parties were trying to work out a strategy at the last moment. The chief minister too brought it to his notice. Despite this he went ahead and recommended dissolution.

The Bommai case is very clear. It says that the first step by the Governor should not be to dissolve the assembly. Only after all attempts fail should he go ahead and take the extreme step. I am of the view that he should have waited at least another couple of days. What is more surprising is that the Governor had summoned the chief minister only after the meeting with the Congress. The BJP had met with the Governor on Sunday and said that it did not wish to go ahead with the government.

The chief minister could have been called by the Governor immediately after that. However, legally speaking, the law mandates that all options be exhausted before a Governor can recommend dissolution of the house.

According to Padmanabha Castro, a senior counsel, the action by the Governor was valid in the eyes of law. If you read carefully into the Bommai judgment, it is clear that the Governor should recommend dissolution of the house only after ample opportunity is given to all political parties.

"The Governor should also take into consideration that all possibilities of a formation of a government are over before he even recommends for President's rule in the state. In the case of Karnataka, all parties have been given an equal opportunity to make their representation before the Governor. Both the BJP and the Congress have said that they did not want to align with the JD(S). So what is left then?