The Supreme Court on Monday asked why Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi had acted on some bills sent for his assent by the Assembly only after the matter had reached the court.
While presiding over a three-judge bench, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud posed the query while hearing a petition filed by the Tamil Nadu government accusing Governor Ravi of not acting on some of the bills sent to him by the legislature.
“The Governor says he has disposed of these bills on November 13. Our concern is that our order was passed on November 10. These bills have been pending since January 2020. It means that the Governor took the decision after the Court issued notice. What was the Governor doing for three years? Why should the Governor wait for the parties to approach the Supreme Court?” the CJI asked when informed that the Governor had decided to withhold his assent to 10 bills pending with him on November 13.
On November 10, a bench presided by the CJI had taken exception to the Punjab Governor not clearing the bills sent by the state legislature on the ground that the assembly session in which they were passed was not constitutionally valid and asked him to “proceed to take a decision on the bills which have been submitted for assent on the basis that the sitting…was constitutionally valid”.
The court had also issued notice on November 10 on the Tamil Nadu government’s plea challenging the state governor not clearing bills.
Attorney General R Venkatramani informed the bench, also comprising Justice J B Pardiwala and Manoj Mosra, that between 2020 and 2023, 181 bills were received by the Governor to which assent was given to 152 bills. Five of them were withdrawn by the government and nine bills were reserved for the consideration of the President.
The governor had also withheld assent to 10 bills and 5 bills received in October 2023 were being processed.
Venkatramani also informed the bench that on November 18, the Tamil Nadu assembly had readopted all the 10 bills for which assent was withheld by the Governor and sent them back to him for assent.
He urged the court to adjourn the proceedings to await the decision of the Governor and the bench agreed to do so.
Venkataramani also informed the bench that out of the 10 bills, the dispute is in respect of those in which amendments have been made to the state universities’ legislations depriving the Governor, who is the chancellor, of his power in regard to the selection of vice-chancellor.
The court said it is not entering into the merits of the bills passed by the Assembly but noted that some of the bills were sent to the Governor in 2020 and some of them in 2022. The AG pointed out that the current governor had assumed office only on November 18. 2021.
The bench said, “The issue is not whether any particular Governor had delayed in the discharge of the constitutional functions entrusted under Article 200, but whether in general there has been a delay in exercising the Constitutional function”.
Agreeing to the AG’s request, the court deferred the hearing to December 1.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court bench also issued notice on a plea by the Kerala government which said that the Governor was delaying the consideration of eight bills passed by the state legislature and sent to him for his assent.