NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has said the Governor, a part of the legislature, cannot sit over Bills indefinitely without any further recourse to virtually veto the functioning of the legislative domain by a duly elected legislature.
A bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said the Governor, as an unelected Head of the State, is entrusted with certain constitutional powers.
Article 200 of the Constitution postulated the Governor has three options: to assent; to withhold assent; and to reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President.
In its November 10 order, released on Thursday, in the Punjab case, the bench said, "the power (by the Governor) cannot be used to thwart the normal course of lawmaking by the State Legislatures."
If the Governor decides to withhold assent under the substantive part of Article 200, the logical course of action is to pursue the course indicated in the first proviso of remitting the Bill to the state legislature for reconsideration, the bench said.
The court, further, explained, in other words, the power to withhold assent under the substantive part of Article 200 must be read together with the consequential course of action to be adopted by the Governor under the first proviso.
"If the first proviso is not read in juxtaposition to the power to withhold assent conferred by the substantive part of Article 200, the Governor as the unelected Head of State would be in a position to virtually veto the functioning of the legislative domain by a duly elected legislature by simply declaring that assent is withheld without any further recourse," the bench said.
The court said such a course of action would be contrary to fundamental principles of a constitutional democracy based on a Parliamentary pattern of governance.
"Therefore, when the Governor decides to withhold assent under the substantive part of Article 200, the course of action which is to be followed is that which is indicated in the first proviso. The Governor is under Article 168 a part of the legislature and is bound by the constitutional regime," it said.
The court's judgement is likely to have significant impact on pending writ petitions filed by the Tamil Nadu and the Kerala governments separately against delay by the Governor to act on the Bills sent for assent, affecting the will of the people and the functioning of the administration.