Kerala HC declines to entertain plea for declaring Guvs can’t withhold bills indefinitely


PTI, Nov 30, 2022, 2:44 PM IST

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday declined to entertain a plea seeking a declaration that a Governor has no power to indefinitely withhold bills passed by the state assembly.

A bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly dismissed the PIL, according to information available on the high court website, which had also sought directions to the Centre to amend the Constitution to prescribe a time limit within which the Indian President or Governors have to take a decision on the bills placed before them for assent.

The detailed order giving reasons for dismissal of the plea is not yet available.

The PIL, which was filed on Tuesday, had also sought a declaration that Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s action of withholding six bills — including the Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Bill and University Laws (Amendment) Bill — indefinitely, without exercising any of his discretionary powers provided under Article 200 of the Indian Constitution, was ”contumacious, arbitrary, despotic and antithetical to the democratic values”.

Article 200 of the Constitution provides the discretionary powers of the Governor with regard to giving assent to bills enacted by the state assembly.

It states that when a bill has been passed by the Legislative Assembly of a State it shall be presented to the Governor who shall declare either that he assents to the bill or that he withholds assent therefrom or that he reserves the bill for the consideration of the President.

The Article also states that the Governor may, as soon as possible, after the presentation of the bill for assent, return it requesting that the assembly reconsider it or any of its specified provisions or consider the desirability of introducing any such amendments that he may have recommended.

However, the provision does not prescribe any specific time limit for the same.

The petition had alleged that Khan ”has not so far discharged his Constitutional obligation” in respect of the bills pending his assent.

It had also alleged that instead of acting ”fairly, cautiously, responsibly and circumspectly”, it is seen that ”the Governor is acting with a political agenda”.

The plea, moved by advocate P V Jeevesh, had also sought a declaration fixing a time limit of two months for exercise of the discretionary powers by the Governor on receipt of a bill passed by the assembly.

Jeevesh had also sought a direction to the Centre to amend Articles 111 and 200 of the Constitution by deleting the words — ‘or that he withholds assent therefrom’ — and prescribe a time limit within which the Indian President and Governors have to exercise their discretionary powers concerning bills.

The lawyer, in his plea, had contended that various commissions — — have made recommendations on time limits for exercising discretionary powers of Governor regarding bills, but they are yet to be implemented. Khan, however, had recently said that he had sought certain explanations or clarifications from the government regarding the bills pending his approval, but there was no response to the same and since his doubts have not been cleared, he has not yet taken a decision regarding those enactments.

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