New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said a governor cannot refer to the president Bills that they have previously withheld assent to, advising Tamil Nadu governor R.N. Ravi to resolve the impasse with the state government over 10 Bills.
According to The Print, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud made the verbal suggestion to attorney general R. Venkataramani.
Ravi had withheld assent to 10 Bills, that pertained to modifications in state university laws, which the legislature passed again without any amendments but later referred them to the President, just days after the top court questioned the governor for sitting on them.
On November 13, the governor said he had withheld his assent to the 10 Bills, which also took away the governor’s powers, as chancellor of state universities, to appoint vice-chancellors.
Subsequently, the state assembly convened a special session on November 18 and passed them again. On November 20, the Supreme Court asked the governor about the pending Bills. On November 28, the governor referred them to the president.
According to The Print, CJI Chandrachud said on Friday that under Article 200 of the constitution, the governor has only three options — grant assent, withhold assent or refer it to the president.
These are “alternatives” and once he has withheld assent, “there is no question of him referring them to the president”, the CJI said.
He also stressed once again that the proviso of Article 200 does not allow the governor to stall a Bill once it is re-enacted by the assembly. CJI Chandrachud referred to the top court’s verdict on November 10 concerning the Punjab governor’s delay in assenting to certain Bills.
According to The Hindu, the Tamil Nadu government told the Supreme Court on Friday that Ravi was exhibiting “constitutional obstinacy” by referring the 10 re-enacted Bills to the president.
AG Venkataramani, meanwhile, argued that the governor had “simply withheld assent” on November 13 and did not send them back. “Now, this was not a case when the Governor had asked the Assembly to reconsider the Bills or had recommended changes. Here, he had only communicated to the Assembly on November 13 that he had withheld assent… The Bills were not technically sent back to the Assembly for reconsideration,” he argued, according to The Hindu.
“So, you are saying the governor can just withhold consent and virtually kill the Bills?” the CJI responded.
The CJI also asked the governor to engage with the chief minister. “Let them sit down and discuss,” he said.
According to The Hindu, the AG’s response was “bleak” – that there were cases when “both do not have any bonhomie”.