Article 200 of the Indian Constitution
Why in News?
- This article discusses various issues with Article 200 of the Indian Constitution.
What is Article 200?
- Article 200 of the Indian Constitution 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.
- When a Bill has been passed by the State legislature, it shall be presented to the Governor and the Governor can,
- Give his assent
- Withhold his assent
- Return the bill
- Reserve the bill for the President’s consideration (In instances where the bill introduced in the state legislature endangers the position of the state High Court.)
- The Governor shall reserve for the consideration of the President, any Bill which in the opinion of the Governor would, if it became law, so derogate from the powers of the High Court as to endanger the position which that Court is by this Constitution designed to fill.
Rationale behind Article 200:
- The real objective behind Article 200 was to let an independent Governor act as a check and balance, to avoid the state-enacted law being repugnant to the Union laws.
- Some State governments expressed an opinion before the Sarkaria Commission that a “Governor will act as a safety valve against hasty legislations and by their operation enable the State Government and Legislature to have a second look at it”.
Issues with Article 200:
- Article 200 does not prescribe a timeline for the Governor to provide assent to Bills sent by the Legislative Assembly.
- This has been used to advantage by the Governors of various States to obscure the mandate of democratically elected governments.
- In Tamil Nadu alone, almost 20 Bills are awaiting assent by the Governor. The situation is no different in Telangana and West Bengal as well.
- When a Governor refuses to sign a bill that has been duly enacted by the legislature, he is directly undermining the federal structure of the Constitution by using unlawful methods.
- Even the President is taking too long to give assent to the bills that the Governor had deferred for the President’s consideration.
- For Instance, The President has not yet acted on the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)-exemption Bill passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly, after it was referred to the President in May 2022.
- There is no timeline prescribed for the President, under Article 201 of the Constitution, to decide on the outcome of the Bill.
Several Calls for Reforms:
- In Purushothaman Nambudiri vs State of Kerala (1962), a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court clarified that the Constitution does not impose any time limit within which the Governor should provide assent to Bills.
- However, the Court has maintained that the Governor must honour the will of the Legislature and that the President or a Governor can act only in harmony with their Council of Ministers.
- The ‘National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution’ headed by Justice Venkatachaliah recommended that “there should be a time-limit — say a period of six months — within which the Governor should take a decision whether to grant assent or to reserve a Bill for consideration of the President.”
- The Sarkaria Commission suggested that delay can be avoided by streamlining the existing procedures thus by making prior consultation with the Governor at the stage of the drafting of the Bill itself, and by prescribing time limits for its disposal.
- An unreasonable delay in granting administrative sanction would be violative of the rule of law. Therefore, it implies that the Governor will have to grant assent or decline the same within a ‘reasonable time’.
- The Supreme Court in a case on anti-defection law held that the Speaker must act on disqualification petitions against the defecting MLAs within a ‘reasonable time’.
- It clarified in the same judgement that reasonable time is three months in the case of disqualification petitions.
- The Constitution should be read contextually to provide a meaning that the Governor must act on the Bills within a reasonable time- three months, in line with the above judgement.