Last Updated :
Governor’s Role in the Context of Centre-State Relations
The role of the Governor as the head of the State is very important. The Governor of a State plays a multifaceted role. In the normal circumstances, he acts as a vital link between the Central and the State Government. Under the Constitution, Governor is expected to play a double role, as the head of the State and as the representative of the Centre. The Central Government has been kept strong in the Indian federal set up by providing more powers under the Constitution. Moreover, the procedure of appointment and the removal of the Governor, also make the Centre strong because his term of office is not secure and he acts only on the directions of the Centre. The founding fathers of our Constitution made the Central Government strong so that it would be able to put a check on the disintegrating forces and can act to safeguard the sovereignty, integrity, and stability of the Country. The Central Government has many overriding powers over the State Government. It has been given a dominant voice in the affairs of the State.
Article 160 of the Constitution states that the President may confer on a Governor function in any contingency not provided in the Constitution. Article 164(1) of the Constitution provides that the Chief Minister shall be appointed by the Governor.
Article 200 of the Constitution states that when a Bill has been passed either by both the House and the House as the case may be, it shall be presented to the Governor and he may reserve it for the consideration of the President.
In the proclamation of the emergency in the State, the report of the Governor about the functioning of the constitutional machinery of the State plays an important role as Article 356(1) provides that, “if the President on the receipt of report from the Governor of a State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
Article 167 of the Constitution provides that it is the obligation of the Chief Minister to keep the Governor informed about the affairs of the State so that the Governor may inform about it to the President. Here we can see that the Governor has a very important part to play as the medium of transfer of information between the chief minister of a state and the President of India.
Article 257 of the Constitution provides that the executive power of the State shall be so exercised as not to prejudice the exercise of the executive power of the Union. It is the constitutional obligation of the Centre to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. In order to the fulfillment of these obligations, it is necessary that the Centre should have its own representative in each State, who has a duty to defend the Constitution, protect democracy, promote national objectives and national integration and also preserve national standards of public administration. He is the Governor by whom the Central Government completes its constitutional obligation. Hence, Governor is the representative of the Centre in the State. Being the appointee of the Central Government, in exceptional circumstances, the Governor becomes the agent of the Centre and Centre misuses the discretionary powers of the Governor for the fulfillment of its political goals. And at this time it appears the post of the Governor should be abolished. Because at this time he does not act as the head of the State and for the welfare of the State but only as a puppet in the hands of the Centre for providing political benefit to the party in command at the Centre. K. V. Rao says that Governor is nominated by the President. And it is this thing, which is most obnoxious. He says “today at the root of all troubles is Article 355 of Constitution of India’’, the simple fact that the head of the State is neither chosen by that state nor is he responsible to it or removable. By the very method of appointment and removal, the Governor becomes subordinate to the President.
The recent example where the Governor acted upon the directions of the Centre or Centre used the office of the Governor for political consideration is, when in Jharkhand, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Chief Shibu Soren was sworn-in as Chief Minister hurriedly in a hush-hush manner. Governor Syed Sibtey Razi gave him three weeks’ time to prove the majority on the floor of the House, although he did not enjoy majority support. As against it NDA had a pre-poll alliance, it was the single largest party and enjoyed the support of 41 legislators in a House of 81 members. Shibu Soren remained as Chief Minister illegally for 8 days. The Apex Court had earlier taken exception to the Governor’s decision of inviting Soren to form the government. By doing so, the SC sought to save democracy and stopped Razi from playing ‘fraud’ with the Constitution. A Governor has discretionary powers to invite a leader of a political party enjoying majority support, to form a government, but in a given situation, when the Governor behaves wrongly, the SC has to intervene to save democracy. Jharkhand Governor ‘defrauded’ the Constitution by appointing Shibu Soren as Chief Minister. It raised a lot of political dust. BJP President, Lal Kishen Chand Advani has labeled Jharkhand Governor, Syed Sibtey Razi as ‘the supari killer of democracy’ because the pre-poll combine of BJP-JDU was not asked to form the new government in the State despite claiming a majority of 41 Legislators in a House of 81.
The Governor, Razi on the specific instruction from the Congress High Command invited NDA’s Arjun Munda to form the government. Razi ought to have taken such a step earlier and shown moral uprightness instead of bowing to the wishes of the Congress. Another example, when the Governor had acted as the agent of the Centre was in Bihar, where after General Assembly Elections in 2005, no political party or group came out with the majority and gave birth to a hung Assembly. The Governor, Buta Singh recommended for the imposition of the President’s Rule in the State. The Supreme Court has declared that the action of Governor, Buta Singh was unconstitutional and wrong. The Sarkaria Commission has stated very categorically and very clearly that Article 356 can be used when there is not only a breakdown of law and order but also when there is a constitutional breakdown. In Bihar, this high-handed and undemocratic use of Governor’s power once again highlights as to why the post of ‘Governor’ as used in the Indian context should not be abolished, as it deprives the Chief Minister of his powers under the State’s rights as enshrined in the Constitution. The list of the acts of the Governor when he acted only as the agent of the Centre is very long and it is not possible to discuss all the incidents here. Founding fathers of our Constitution would never have thought that the Centre may use the office of the Governor in such a way.
About Article 356 of the Constitution, it was hoped by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Constituent drafting committee, that Article 356 will never be called into operation and would remain a dead letter. The role of Governors has come in for severe criticism – sometimes, bordering on condemnation – in the context of reports they submit under and within the meaning of Article 356. Many a Governor has not covered himself with glory in that behalf.
Notwithstanding the recommendations guiding the discharge of their functions in the Sarkaria Commission Report (to which we shall presently refer) and the decisions of the Conference of Governors, many Governors continue to behave in a manner not consistent with the true spirit of the Constitution. This would be evident from the decision of the Supreme Court in S.R.Bommai V. Union of India A few observations from the said judgment may be opposite. In his judgment delivered for himself and Kuldip Singh J., Sawant J. commented thus upon the conduct of the then Governor of Karnataka:
“it was improper on the part of the Governor to have arrogated to himself the task of holding, firstly, that the earlier 19 letters were genuine and were written by the said legislators of their free will and volition. He had not even cared to interview the said legislators but had merely got the authenticity of the signatures verified through the legislature secretariat…. We are of the view that this is a case where all canons of propriety were thrown to winds and the undue haste made by the Governor in inviting the President to issue the proclamation under Article 356(1) smacked of malafide. The action of the Governor was more objectionable since as a high constitutional functionary, he was expected to conduct himself more fairly, cautiously and circumspectly. Indeed it appears that the Governor was in a hurry to dismiss the Ministry and dissolve the Assembly” (para 76).
While dealing with the conduct of then Governor of Meghalaya, the learned judge made similar observations and observed finally: “the unflattering episode shows in unmistakable terms the Governor’s unnecessary anxiety to dismiss the Ministry and dissolve the Assembly and also his failure as a constitutional functionary to realize the binding, legal consequences of and give effect to the orders of the court”.
To overcome these type of situations in future, Sarkaria Commission recommends that the President should appoint the Governor of a State, after consultation with the Chief Minister of that State. In order to ensure effective consultation with the State Chief Minister in the selection of a person to be appointed as Governor, the procedure of consultation should be prescribed in the Constitution itself by suitably amending Article 155 of the Constitution. Commission has also given some recommendations that who shall be a fit person for the appointment as Governor. The person who is to be appointed as Governor should fulfill the following criteria:
- He should be eminent in some walk of life.
- He should be a person from outside the State.
- He should be a detached figure and not too intimately connected with local politics of the State.
- He should be a person who has not taken too great a part in politics generally and particularly in the recent past.
In selecting a Governor in accordance with the above criteria, persons belonging to the minority groups should continue to be given a chance as hitherto. It is desirable that a politician from the ruling party at the Union is not appointed as Governor of a State which is being run by some other party or of a combination of other parties. Commission also recommended that the Vice-President of India and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha may be consulted by the Prime Minister in selecting a Governor. Such consultation will greatly enhance the credibility of the selection process. The consultation should be confidential and Informal and should not be a matter of constitutional obligation. Some of the recommendations have been adopted such as Governor to be from outside State. The SC has many times emphasized the urgent need for implementing Sarkaria commission’s recommendations on selection and appointment of Governors.
From above-stated facts, we can conclude that what so ever is the constitutional provision, but in actual situations, it came to see that the governor is expected to pay the debt of his appointment which he owes to the central government. It should not be like this governor is required to maintain the glory of his constitutional post. In Hargovind Pant vs Dr. Raghukul Tilak, the court held that it is no doubt true that the Governor is appointed by the President which means in effect and substance the Government of India, but that is only a mode of appointment and it does not make the Governor an employee and servant of the Government of India. He is the head of the State and holds a high constitutional office which carries with it important constitutional functions and duties. He holds office during the pleasure of the President. It is a constitutional provision for determination of the term of office of the Governor and it does not make the Government of India an employer of the Governor. He is not amenable to the direction of the Government of India nor is he accountable to them for the manner in which he carries out his functions and duties. He is an independent constitutional office, which is not subject to the control of the Government of India. Actually, the Governor is more than a constitutional head. He is an important functionary designed to play a vital role in the administration of the affairs of the State. Or in other words, he is a link between the Centre and the States under the Indian Constitution. But on some occasions, he looks as the agent of the Centre.
- Indian constitution by M.P.Jain, 7th edition, LexisNexis
 Article 355, Constitution of India.
 R.C.S. Sarkar, “The Office of the Governor”, Journal of Parliamentary Studies, Vol. III, 1969, p.21.
 Quoted by Rajni Goyal, “The Governor: Constitutional Position and Political Reality”, The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 53, 1992, p. 520
 Rameshwar Prashad vs the Union of India, (2006) 2 SCC I
 AIR 1994 SC 1918
 (1979) 3 SCC 458