Jaipur: The political stalemate in Rajasthan, persisting for more than two weeks now, does not look to end anytime soon.
What was originally an overt challenge to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to prove his majority, from his deputy Sachin Pilot and other MLAs, has now grown into a constitutional impasse upon interference from the judiciary and now, the governor.
On Tuesday, Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra returned the third proposal by the state cabinet which has been asking him to convene an assembly session – this time, on July 31.
This fresh proposal was sent after Mishra raised a few issues on the earlier proposals of the cabinet. He, notably, had asked the Gehlot government to specify the reason for calling an assembly session.
मुख्यमंत्री श्री अशोक गहलोत जी ने माननीय राज्यपाल श्री कलराज मिश्र जी से मुलाकात की। pic.twitter.com/kQIzmNoKAh
— Raj Bhavan Rajasthan (@RajBhavanJaipur) July 29, 2020
Mishra, for the past six days, has been stressing that an assembly session cannot be called in a pandemic “without an urgent” reason as that would put the members and others at risk of infection.
He added that if there are no such special circumstances, then the cabinet shall have to give a 21-day notice to call a session.
Mishra also specified that if the government wants to hold a session to seek a trust vote, then it could be considered an “urgent” matter, provided that there is live broadcast of the trust vote proceedings and adequate social distancing measures in the assembly for the members and staff.
“If the government wants to seek a trust vote, then this can be a reasonable basis of calling a session on short notice,” he said.
However, the Gehlot government has not mentioned the trust vote in any of the three cabinet proposals sent to the governor.
Upon being asked as to whether the government wants a trust vote, state transport minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas told The Wire, “There is no question of seeking a trust vote, our government has the majority.”
“We just want an assembly session to discuss crucial issues but the refusal of the governor clearly shows that he is acting on the advice of the Bhartiya Janta Party. Governor is not above the constitution and he has no power to refuse the cabinet proposal demanding an assembly session,” he added.
Khachariyawas further said that it’s the assembly speaker who takes the call on agenda of the assembly. He added that the state cabinet will hold another meeting on Wednesday at 5 pm to discuss its next move.
The Rajasthan governor’s refusal to accept the state cabinet’s proposal to hold an assembly session has drawn massive criticism.
Senior Congress leaders and former law ministers Ashwani Kumar, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid have written a letter to Mishra, stating that the governor’s office under the constitution is meant to be “beyond the constraints and compulsions of partisan politics.”
“Having served as Union ministers of Law and Justice in different periods of time and as students of Constitutional law, we are of the clear view that established legal position obliges the Governor to call the assembly session in accordance with the advice of the state cabinet,” reads their letter.
“Any deviation from established constitutional position in the present circumstances would be an avoidable negation of your oath of office and will create a constitutional crisis,” the letter adds.
Under Article 174 of the constitution, the governor is given the power to summon or dissolve the assembly as he thinks fit. For this, he must act “on the aid and advice of the cabinet,” as provided in Article 163.
According to it, the governor can use his discretionary powers only for cases expressly specified in the constitution. For the rest, he is bound by the advice of the cabinet.
The framers of the constitution have expressly and consciously not given the discretionary power to the governor in matters relating to summoning or dissolving the assembly.