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Legal debate over K'taka governor's decision
Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru
June 02, 2008

Will the decision by the Bharatiya Janata Party to prove its majority on the floor of the House in Karnataka prior to the address by the governor have any legal implications? The BJP and the governor were in argument over this position of law and now it seems like the party will follow the directive they have received from Raj Bhavan in Bengaluru.

As per the provisions of law, the BJP had met the governor during the weekend to request him to render the special address to the joint session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly and session.

However, Governor Rameshwar Thakur made it clear that the BJP first had to prove its majority on the floor of the House, before he could render his special address.

The BJP protested at first, but has now decided that it would prove the majority on the floor of the House before requesting the governor to deliver the special address to the joint session in Karnataka.

The question now is whether the governor was right in his decision when he told the BJP to prove its majority first and only then go ahead with the special address.

Legal experts point out that the decision is not correct and is not in accordance with what the Constitution of India mandates.

According to a senior advocate, who did not wish to be quoted, "Article 176 of the Indian Constitution clearly states that there shall be a special address by the governor at the commencement of the first session. It also says that it is only after this address shall the business of the House be carried on."

Legal experts say that the word, "business" should be stressed upon here. Business of the House would mean a floor test also, according to the Constitution. Hence technically, it would mean that the governor would have to first address the House before he orders a floor test, legal experts also claim.

However the argument meted out by the governor is different. He argued that he would address the House only once the majority is proved. He quoted the S R Bommai case, which states that floor test is supreme before any action is the House is undertaken.

The BJP, however, argued that the Bommai judgment is just an interpretation and under no circumstance is it above the Constitution of India.

Moreover, the BJP also argued that it was the governor who invited them to form the government after he was satisfied that the party enjoyed a majority along with the independents.

BJP insiders told that they tried to pacify the governor against directing a floor test first as there could be legal complications.

They feared that the opposition may raise a hue and cry if they went in for the floor test. The governor however stuck to his stand, the BJP claimed.

The BJP also sought a letter from the governor stating that he ordered that a floor test be held before a special address was rendered.

The BJP thought that they would hold out this letter in assembly if a hue and cry was raised. However, the governor refused to give them a letter, BJP sources also said.

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