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Why sacking UPA-appointed governors is not an easy option for the Narendra Modi government

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 - 8:15am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

  • BL Joshi

The fight between the Congress-appointed governors and the Centre appears to be intensifying with only Uttar Pradesh's BL Joshi putting in his papers on Tuesday. The five others chose not to react.

Strains of tension were evident during the day when Union home minister Rajnath Singh reportedly saying if he were in their [governor's] place, he would have quit.

The fight between the BJP and the Congress is unlikely to end any time soon. Two to three of the six governors have already sought appointments with president Pranab Mukherjee.

Rajasthan governor Margaret Alva, whose name figures in the list, met PM Narendra Modi at his residence on Tuesday.

Karnataka governor HR Bhardwaj and Assam governor JB Patnaik, who met president Mukherjee, denied speculation they were quitting.

"No one asked me for it and I won't resign," Bhardwaj said.

Kerala governor Sheila Dikshit declined to comment on media reports that the Centre had sounded the governors appointed by the previous UPA government to step down. "I can't react to rumours," she said.

Incidentally, it was a BJP MP, BP Singhal, who had approached the Supreme Court in 2004 against the Congress' decision to remove governors appointed during NDA's tenure.

The apex court judgment of May 7, 2010, in this case clearly said though the president can remove governors any time without assigning any reason and without giving any reason to show cause, the power under Article 156 (1) cannot be exercised in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner.

It means a governor cannot be removed on grounds that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union government or the party in power at the Centre.

The order further says: "Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union government has lost confidence in him. It follows, therefore, that a change in government at the Centre is not a ground for removal of governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government."

The aggrieved governors, if they are able to demonstrate prima facie that their removal is arbitrary, mala fide, capricious or whimsical, the court can call upon the Union government to disclose to the court the material upon which the president took the decision to sack them.

The judgment empowers a governor to call the shots and take legal recourse of limited judicial review that can put the central government in a fix.

But it could be a tough call for the governors of West Bengal and Goa— MK Narayanan and BV Wanchoo. After a long exchange of letters with the law ministry on the technicalities of questioning their role in the Augusta Westland VVIP chopper deal, the CBI said there were no legal hurdles and it would question the governors soon.

If the battle persists, it may be difficult for the BJP to give plum postings to its senior or disgruntled leaders like Lalji Tandon, Kailash Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Balram Das Tandon, KC Nath Tripathi, Yashwant Sinha, and VK Malhotra, many of whom decided not to fight elections.

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