Current Public Administration Magazine (March - 2017) - On Governor Removal

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State Administration

On Governor Removal

The subject of the removal of Governors of different States, an issue which made headlines some time ago, may have been put on the back burner, but it does not seem to have gone into cold storage.

The controversy over the removal of Governors has receded into the background only because the issue which has hogged the limelight recently is the government’s rejection of the name of Mr. Gopal Subramanium, recommended by the Supreme Court collegium for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, on account of adverse reports by the Intelligence Bureau.


The government is now adopting a policy of wait and watch to see if the Governors whom it wants removed resign on their own in due course of time. The Governors of five States, M.K. Narayanan (West Bengal), B.L. Joshi (Uttar Pradesh), Shekhar Dutt (Chhattisgarh), Ashwani Kumar (Nagaland) and B.V. Wanchoo (Goa) have already resigned, while the terms of two others, H.R. Bhardwaj (Karnataka) and Devanand Konwar (Tripura), ended recently; pressure is being built up by the government to force the others to resign.

The Governor is appointed by the President of India on the advice of the Council of Ministers for the period of five years. Unlike the President of India, there is no procedure for the impeachment of a Governor, but he/she could be removed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister on grounds of gross delinquency, namely corruption, bribery and violation of the Constitution. But the practice has been different from what is laid down in the Constitution; Governors have been removed only due to a change of government without citing any substantial reason.

One should not be surprised by the Narendra Modi government’s initiative to remove Governors. There is precedent. Even in the past, Governors appointed by previous governments have been removed by the new government on assuming office after elections. The new governments have expended energy on removing Governors and appointing their own men as new Governors.

The practice of dismissing Governors with the change of guard at the Centre began in 1977 when the Janata Party came to power after routing the Congress and took a decision to replace Governors appointed by the previous regime. Incidentally, in 1977, the decision/recommendation of the then Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, and his Cabinet to dismiss Governors was sent back by then acting President B.D. Jatti without signing it. Though the government managed to remove the Governors, as the acting President Jatti was constitutionally bound to sign the order when it was again sent back to him, it came as an embarrassment for the Janata Party government which had just assumed office.

No formal communication

The practice of replacing the Governor by the newly elected Central government did not stop and different governments kept indulging in the practice.

But what comes as a surprise is the manner in which the initiative for removal of these Governors was undertaken. While none of them has got any formal communication from the government to step down, it is the Home Secretary Anil Goswami, who is asking them to resign, on behalf of the government. To the surprise of all, this is being done over the phone. The government is trying to use the bureaucracy for this unconstitutional work/move while trying to keep a safe distance so that the government can emerge clean in case of a hue and cry.

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