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New Delhi, June 26 (IANS) The ongoing struggle in Maharashtra between Shiv Sena rebel leader Eknath Shinde’s faction and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is about to reach an intriguing climax, where the role of the governor is extremely crucial in establishing political stability in the state.

Apparently, the odds are stacked against the government of Maha Vikas Aghadi, which is on the verge of collapse. However, Shinde’s camp suffered a setback after the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly rejected the motion of no confidence they had tabled against him and recently the Shiv Sena executive committee authorized Thackeray to take action against him. rebel deputies.

A question that emerges in this political imbroglio – when would Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari call for a ground test.

Post the rebellion in the ranks, Shiv Sena said suggesting the dissolution of the Assembly and the Vice President issued notices to the 16 rebel MPs on the disqualification plea by Thackeray’s team. Supreme Court judgments in such scenarios ask the governor to give a chance to a party, whose stakes claim to form the government.

Articles of the Constitution define the power of the Governor, in particular Article 174, which is a crucial provision. Section 174(1) provides that the Governor shall from time to time summon the House or each House of the State Legislature to meet at such time and place as he deems proper, but six months must not elapse between its last sitting in one session and the date fixed for its first sitting in the following session. Section 174(2)(a) empowers the Governor to prorogue the House from time to time, while Section 174(2)(b) empowers the Governor to dissolve the Legislative Assembly.

Section 163(1) states that the Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at its head assists and advises the Governor in the exercise of his functions. However, Section 163(2) says: “If any question arises as to whether any matter is or is not a matter in respect of which the Governor is by or under this Constitution bound to acting at his discretion, the Governor’s decision at his discretion shall be final, and the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be questioned on the ground that he should or should not have acted according to his discretion.

Various judgments of the Supreme Court also help to have clarity on the power of the governor, when faced with a political crisis, like the one unfolding in Maharashtra.

In the SR Bommai (1994) and Rameshwar Prasad (2006) cases, the supreme court consistently held that the governor should do a ground test to test the government’s majority support. To Rameshwar Prasad he said: “If a political party with the support of another political party or other MPs stakes claims to form a government and satisfies the governor with his majority to form a stable government, the governor cannot not deny the formation of the government and overrule the majority claims due to its subjective assessment that the majority has been cobbled together by illegal and unethical means.”

“No such power has been vested in the Governor. Such a power would be contrary to the democratic principles of majority rule.”

In the 2016 judgment in the case of Nebam Rabia v Vice President of Arunachal Pradesh, the high court considered whether the governor should exercise this power at his discretion or with the help and advice of the Cabinet. “In a situation where the Governor has reason to believe that the Chief Minister and his Cabinet have lost the confidence of the House, it is open to the Governor to require the Chief Minister and his Cabinet to they prove their majority, in the House, by a ground test. Only in a situation where the government in power, upon holding such a ground test, is perceived to have lost the confidence of the people. majority, that it would be open to the Governor to exercise the powers vested in him under Section 174 himself, and without any assistance or advice,” the Supreme Court noted in its 2016 judgment.

In Shivraj Singh Chouhan v President of Madhya Pradesh (2020), the Supreme Court said: “In a situation where the Governor has reason to believe that the Cabinet of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister has lost the confidence of the House , constitutional propriety requires that the issue be resolved by calling a ground test. The governor in calling for a ground test cannot be construed as having acted beyond the bounds of constitutional authority.

In Madhya Pradesh, MPs from the Jyotiraditya Scindia camp defected to the BJP. Then-Congress Chief Minister Kamal Nath asked the Governor to dissolve the Assembly. However, the governor requested a ground test.

During the Karnataka political crisis in 2018 and the Maharashtra political crisis in 2019, the supreme court ordered ground tests.

In 2013, the highest court in the RA Mehta case pointed out that there could be a situation where the Council of Ministers could advise the Governor to dissolve a House, which could be detrimental to the interests of the nation. “In such circumstances, the governor would be justified in refusing to accept the advice rendered to him and in acting at his discretion. There may even be circumstances where ministerial advice is not available at all, i.e. the decision regarding the choice of Chief Minister under Article 164(1), which involves the choice of a Chief Minister after a new election, or in the event of death or resignation of the Chief Minister, or dismissal of the Chief Minister, who loses the majority in the House and yet refuses to resign The Governor is furthermore not bound to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers, when another body has been referred to for consultation, i.e. Section 192(2) with respect to rulings on matters relating to the disqualification of members of the state legislature,” said the highest court.

Against the backdrop of a series of Supreme Court judgments ordering ground tests to test the majority of the government, it would be interesting to see what decision Koshyari takes to defuse political uncertainty in the state.

(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at [email protected])


Updated: June 26, 2022