The importance of Constitutional Punctuality

The importance of Constitutional Punctuality

News: Recently, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed a resolution seeking to provide for a time frame for Governors to act on Bills passed by the State Legislature.

What power does Governor have over bills?
 Article 200 – It deals with the powers of the Governor with regard to assent given to bills passed by the State legislature and other powers of the Governor such as reserving the bill for the President’s consideration.
 Article 201 – Bill reserved for consideration of President.
 Veto - The Governor of India enjoys absolute veto, suspensive veto (except on money bills) but not the pocket veto.
 Assent to bill - The process of law making is complete only when the Governor signs the bill, signifying his assent.

What is the issue?
 Governor of Tamil Nadu, had withheld assent to as many as 13 Bills passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.
 The Supreme Court in a case filed by the State of Telangana against its Governor: Remarked that Governors should not sit over Bills indefinitely.
 The idea of constitutional punctuality need not be restricted to gubernatorial (relating to governor) offices alone. All constitutional high offices including those of the President of India and Speakers of Assemblies must suo motu evolve guidelines to discharge duties in a time-bound manner.
 Resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly urged the Union Government and President to advise the Governor to decide on the bills passed by the State Legislatures within a reasonable time period.

Why withholding assent to a bill is against the spirit and values enshrined in the Constitution?
 Drafters of the Constitution assumed that nominated governors will discharge sovereign duties beyond the confines of political partisanship.
 Governors have wrongly understood the powers available under Article 200 of the Indian constitution. They believe options available to them function as some discretionary responsibility.
 The original draft Article 175(moved for discussion in 1949) read as follows: “Provided that where there is only one House of the Legislature and the Bill has been passed by that House, the Governor may, in his discretion, return the Bill together with a message requesting that the House will reconsider the Bill.”
 R. Ambedkar (While moving the amendment to this Article): there “can be no room for a Governor acting on discretion” and recommended removing the phrase “the Governor, in his discretion”. Therefore, the final Article, adopted by the Constituent Assembly and embedded in the Constitution explicitly negates any discretionary power.
 The Supreme Court in Shamsher Singh & Anr vs State Of Punjab (1974), held that the discretion of the Governor is extremely limited. Even in rare cases, the governor shall act in a manner that is not detrimental to the interest of the state.

Global practices pertaining Veto of the Bill:
 In the United Kingdom, there has been no royal veto since 1708. In the United States, there is a time limit of 10 days for the President to give assent or veto a bill. If the President does not sign or vetoes the Bill within this time, it automatically becomes an Act. 

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