The Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, in 2010 emphasized that no Governor can be removed on basis of being “out of sync with policies and ideologies of Union Govt. at centre”.
This decision also states that governors can be removed, but there must be “compelling” reasons for doing so. Principle of natural justice must be followed, Governor must be given a chance to explain his position.
- B.P. Singhal v. Union of India → Removal of governor cannot be on unreasonable grounds.
The Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State relations suggested :
- that a Governor should be someone eminent in some walk of life,
- one “not too intimately connected with the local politics of the State,” and
- should not be one “who has taken too great a part in politics generally, and particularly in the recent past.” It suggested that a politician from the ruling party at the Centre should not be appointed Governor of a State run by another party.
Punchhi Commission has also emphasized that a proper procedure of removal and appointment of Governor should be laid down in the constitution itself. Remove the “Pleasure Doctrine”.
What does the Constitution say?
- As per Article 155 and Article 156 of the Constitution, a Governor is appointed on pleasure of the president.
The Supreme Court’s interpretation
B.P. Singhal v. Union of India. In this case, the newly elected central government had removed the Governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Goa in July, 2004 after the 14th Lok Sabha election. When these removals were challenged, the Supreme Court held:
- The President, in effect the central government, has the power to remove a Governor at any time without giving him or her any reason, and without granting an opportunity to be heard.
- However, this power cannot be exercised in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner. The power of removing Governors should only be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reasons.
- The mere reason that a Governor is at variance with the policies and ideologies of the central government, or that the central government has lost confidence in him or her, is not sufficient to remove a Governor. Thus, a change in central government cannot be a ground for removal of Governors, or to appoint more favourable persons to this post.
- A decision to remove a Governor can be challenged in a court of law. In such cases, first the petitioner will have to make a prima facie case of arbitrariness or bad faith on part of the central government. If a prima facie case is established, the court can require the central government to produce the materials on the basis of which the decision was made in order to verify the presence of compelling reasons.
In summary, this means that the central government enjoys the power to remove Governors of the different states, as long as it does not act arbitrarily, without reason, or in bad faith.
Recommendations of Various Commissions
Three important commissions have examined this issue.
- The Sarkaria Commission (1988) recommended that Governors must not be removed before completion of their five year tenure, except in rare and compelling circumstances. This was meant to provide Governors with a measure of security of tenure, so that they could carry out their duties without fear or favour. If such rare and compelling circumstances did exist, the Commission said that the procedure of removal must allow the Governors an opportunity to explain their conduct, and the central government must give fair consideration to such explanation. It was further recommended that Governors should be informed of the grounds of their removal
- The Venkatachaliah Commission (2002) similarly recommended that ordinarily Governors should be allowed to complete their five year term. If they have to be removed before completion of their term, the central government should do so only after consultation with the Chief Minister
The Punchhi Commission (2010) suggested that the phrase “during the pleasure of the President” should be deleted from the Constitution, because a Governor should not be removed at the will of the central government; instead he or she should be removed only by a resolution of the state legislature.