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Rediff.com  » News » 'Kerala faces a very serious Constitutional crisis'

'Kerala faces a very serious Constitutional crisis'

By SHOBHA WARRIER
Last updated on: November 08, 2022 01:02 IST
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'The administration will come to a standstill because the governor will not cooperate with the finance minister.'

IMAGE: Arif Mohammad Khan, third from right, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, second from right. Photograph: ANI Photo
 

The stand-off between Arif Mohammed Khan, the governor of Kerala, and the Left Democratic Front government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, does not show any signs of ending in the near future.

This is not the first time that Governor Khan and Chief Minister Vijayan have been at loggerheads; skirmishes have occurred at periodic intervals.

This time, the governor asked the chief minister to sack his finance minister for remarks he made about Khan.

Dr Sebastian Paul, the former Member of Parliament from Ernakulam, says the situation could lead to a Constitutional crisis in the state.

"It means the governor will not sign any papers sent from the finance ministry. The finance ministry is an important ministry and if it is paralysed, you can imagine what will happen to the government. This will lead to an open confrontation between the governor and the state government," Dr Paul tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier in the first part of an illuminating interview.

The governor of Kerala has asked the chief minister to sack his finance minister. Can the governor make such a demand?

Arif Mohammad Khan has always been hot and cold with the state government.

At times, he is very cordial with the chief minister and his council of ministers. In fact, the other day I saw the governor paying glowing tribute to the finance minister, Mr Balagopal, as a very affable, lovable, courteous and decent person.

Later, he came out with a letter asking the chief minister to drop him (Balagopal) from his council of ministers on the ground that he has lost the 'pleasure' of the governor.

Apart from the political aspects of this order, there is a very interesting and serious Constitutional issue in this.

As per Article 154 of the Constitution, the ministers are appointed by the governor on the advice of the chief minister, and a minister can remain in the office as long as he enjoys the 'pleasure' of the governor.

So, the question is, what is the Constitutional significance of the word 'pleasure' used in Article 154?

Pleasure?

Yes. Pleasure and not pressure. The governor may be under pressure from his political masters to withdraw his 'pleasure'!

How do we interpret the word 'pleasure' in the Constitutional sense? You have to understand the Constitution not by plain reading alone as every word has its own significance, meaning interpretation, precedence and conventions.

We have adopted the parliamentary form of government from the United Kingdom. So, how the word 'pleasure' is interpreted is very relevant.

In India also, the Supreme Court has given so many judgments like the Bommai judgment which is very illustrious, the Sarkaria Commission report, etc.

It is said everywhere that 'pleasure' is not the personal pleasure of the governor, but the 'pleasure' of the chief minister.

Is it not the chief minister's prerogative to retain or sack a minister?

Yes. Only a chief minister can ask a minister to submit his resignation. That is the process.

When a chief minister gets the resignation letter from the minister, he will forward it to the governor. And it is the governor who 'accepts' the resignation.

If a minister defies the chief minister and refuses to submit his resignation, then the chief minister can ask the governor to dismiss the minister.

IMAGE: Arif Mohammad Khan, the governor of Kerala. Photograph: ANI Photo

So, the governor has no right to ask the chief minister to sack a minister?

Yes, the governor has no right in his personal capacity to do so.

The governor can only do what the chief minister says...

Yes. That is the role and practice everywhere.

Then, is the governor not interfering with the functioning of the state government by asking the chief minister to fire a minister?

Yes, definitely so.

If the governor is intent on pursuing this further, then Kerala is facing a very serious Constitutional crisis.

The administration will come to a standstill because the governor will not cooperate with the finance minister.

It also means he will not sign any papers sent from the finance ministry. The finance ministry is an important ministry and if it is paralysed, you can imagine what will happen to the government.

This will lead to an open confrontation between the governor and the state government.

The governor said the finance minister'S comments are seditious, which amounts to challenging national integrity and stirring up provisionalism. Do you think so?

I agree with the governor that a minister is expected to show some decency and courtesy towards the appointing authority which is the governor. He is expected to show due respect to everybody in fact, especially those in authority.

I will not defend the comments made by our politicians or ministers against the governor.

You may dislike Arif MohammAd Khan, but the governor is the Constitutional head and a Constitutional functionary demands certain respect and regard.

At the same time, I do not agree that what Balagopal said amounts to sedition. He was only making comparison between UP and Kerala as far as the functioning of universities are concerned. Balagopal was highlighting the democratic ethos that prevail in the universities in Kerala.

That kind of a comparison does not in any way amount to sedition.

The problem is the governor feels so. And he has sent a letter to the chief minister terminating his 'pleasure'.

The question is, whether a minister remain in office when he loses the 'pleasure' of the governor.

My argument is that a minister will remain in office as long as the chief minister has confidence in him.

What matters is the confidence of the chief minister.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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