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More Misused than Used.

India, July 6 -- In India, Governors are the nominal heads of States.

The real power is vested in the hands of the Chief Ministers of the respective States. Of late, some Governors have become more heedful to the ruling party to which they once belonged.

Most of the Governors have come to hold the post as postretirement jobs; they are mostly politicians who had lost elections; some of them are bureaucrats who went out of the way to please the powers-that-be, though there are a handful of exceptions.

Governors are appointed for a term of five years.

Whatever people may say, most Governors anticipate what is expected of them and act accordingly. Some of them have used gubernatorial office to escape their misdeeds, as a Governor cannot be prosecuted.

In the recent events, a Governor of ancient vintage was caught on camera with three young girls.

However, the High Court stayed the public screening of the video on TV. A defeated Chief Minister, who was threatened to be prosecuted by her successor, was post haste appointed Governor of a State to give immunity to the appointee.

Even where scams have been proved, some Governors, who were members of the then ruling party, refused to accord sanction for prosecuting the scamster politicians. This phenomenon is not confined only to the politicians, but also to bureaucrats. With a few to get extension of their tenure, some former officials, who were also appointed as Governors, did likewise.

Governors of Goa, Jharkhand and Bihar have been criticised by the Supreme Court during the earlier rule of UPA for a partisan conduct, in favouring certain politicians or political parties close to Delhi seat of power.

The Supreme Court came down heavily on Bihar Governor for recommending the dissolution of the State Assembly in 2005.

Holding unconstitutional and illegal the dissolution, the Court said that it was done only to prevent the Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar from staking claim to form the government.

A Constitution Bench by a majority of 3:2 held that "in the absence of the relevant material, much less due verification, the report of the Governor has to be treated as the personal ipse dixit (perception or opinion) of the Governor. The drastic and extreme action under Article 356 of the Constitution cannot be justified on mere ipse dixit, suspicion, whims and fancies of the Governor." The majority Bench observed that "this Court cannot remain a silent spectator watching the subversion of the Constitution. It is to be remembered that this court is the sentinel on the qui vive." In other case, the Supreme Court, held by majority criticising the Centre for recommending the dissolution, said that "the Governor may be the main player, but the Council of Ministers [Union Cabinet] should have verified the facts stated in the report of the Governor before hurriedly accepting it as a gospel truth as to what the Governor stated.

Clearly, the Governor has misled the Council of Ministers which led to the aid and advice being given by the Council of Ministers to the President leading to the issue of the impugned proclamation." In the case of another Governor, according to newspaper reports, a durbari politician from Uttar Pradesh had become an active source of irritation and inconvenience for all those who value constitutional niceties in the government, especially after he appointed Shibu Soren as Chief Minister and ignored the NDA'a claim of majority. The Governor faced the wrath of law when the Apex Court said his action amounted to a fraud on the Constitution.

These are some of the known facts, but what is not in public domain is much worse. Having been on the personal staff of a Governor, I had an occasion to discuss the various angularities of some of the Governors. One worthy, while finishing off his term, took away even the finest carpets and crockery which had to be written off by the loyal staff as damaged, broken and not fit for use. One Governor sold off the produce of the Governor's estate on the ground that it was his privilege as the Governor. I hold no brief nor I belong to any political party, but what I have written above is the result of my observations in the last ten years.

In its judgment, the Bench, in 2010, while noting that the Governor holds office during the pleasure of the President and hence the President can remove the Governor from office "at any time without assigning any reason and without giving any opportunity to show cause", ruled that the power to remove can't be exercised in an "arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner".

"The power will have to be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reasons... A Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union Government has lost confidence in him. It follows therefore that change in government at Centre is not a ground for removal of Governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government," the Bench ruled.

There is no doubt, that it is an ideal judgment. But men are not ideal as they see which side of their bread is buttered. Naturally the government of the day could not argue against the reasoning of the Apex Court as its own party men appointed as Governors had acted as was expected of them, as the Government of the Centre could have lost majority if even a small ally walked out of it. As leopard cannot change its skin, it is impossible to expect politicians dyed in one hue to change their style or way of working. The ideal course would have been for such appointees not to have dragged their feet and called it quits gracefully.

Most certainly, there should be a security of tenure for the Governor but with a proviso that they should cease being a representative of the party in power on a sinecure. It will be unfair to paint all the Governors with the same brush as a microscopic minority has maintained high standards and not hankered after any office.

But a large number of politicians are party hoppers in the hope of crumbs being thrown at them.

If one were to write about the misuse of offices, 2G, Adarsh Housing, Coalgate and Railgate, which are of the recent times, come to mind. The party of the main actors in scam stories would have probably landed in one of gubernatorial job if their party had come to power as one defeated Chief Minister made it in the nick of time, a few hours before the model code of conduct came into force.

Considering the promises made, it is hoped that some minimum level of probity and efficiency would be established. I am reminded of an Urdu Couplet, "Agaz to Uchha Hey, Anjam Khuda Janey" (The beginning is good and only God knows the end).

(The writer is former Director of CBI.


Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Date:Jul 6, 2014
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