The Machinery Of Government In The States

The machinery of Government in the States is organized on the same pattern as that of the Union Government. As in the Union, the Government in the States is based on the parliamentary model. The Head of a State is called the Governor who is the constitutional head as the President is for the Union. The chief of State Government is called the Chief Minister who is the counterpart of the Prime Minister of India in the State. There is a Council of Ministers for each of the States as in the Union. Government activities are divided mainly on a functional basis and grouped together as distinct departments, each of which is placed under a Minister just as the various ministries at the Centre. The organisation of the State legislature is also more or less on the model of Indian Parliament. In the judicial field, the High Court occupies the same position within the State as the Supreme Court does for the whole of India. Thus, the State Government is almost a true copy of the Union Government within the jurisdiction of each State. This helps the State to draw the example and inspiration from the working of the Union Government in almost every field of activity.

The Governor

The executive power of the State is vested in the Governor who is appointed by the President and who holds office during the pleasure of the President (Articles 154, 155 and 156). The vesting of the entire executive power of the State in the Governor shows that he occupies the same constitutional position within the State as the President does with respect to the Government of India. Normally, the Governor holds office for a period of five years from the date on which he assumes office.

The qualifications for appointment as a Governor (Article 157) are simple and few. He should be a citizen of India and must have completed the age of thirty-five years. The Governor cannot be a member of either House of Parliament or of a State legislature, nor can he hold any other office of profit. He is entitled to a free official residence, a regular monthly salary and other allowances. At present, his salary is fixed at Rs. 3,50,000 per month. His salary and allowances cannot be reduced during his term of office. These are charged on the Consolidated Fund of the State and, as such, are non-votable. Before assuming his office, the Governor has to make and subscribe, in the presence of the Chief Justice of the High Court of the State, an oath of affirmation to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

Powers and Functions
of the Governor

The executive power of the State is vested in the Governor who is empowered to exercise it either directly or through officers subordinate to him. And the executive power of the State extends to all matters on which the State legislature has the power to make laws. In the discharge of his responsibilities as the Head of the State, the Governor exercises functions similar to those of the President as the head of the Union. He appoints the Chief Minister and other members of the Council of Ministers who hold office during his pleasure. He allocates the business of the Government among the Ministers and makes rules for the more convenient transaction of such business. All executive actions of the State Government are taken in his name. In the States of Bihar/Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh/Chhattisgarh and Odisha, it is the special responsibility of the Governor to see that a Minister is placed in charge of tribal welfare (Article 164). In Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, the Governor is given certain special powers with respect to the administration of the tribal areas as provided in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Like the President, who has the power of pardon, the Governor, too, is empowered to grant pardons (Article 161). This applies to all persons convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.

In the legislative field, the Governor has considerable powers. He is an integral part of the State legislature. He convenes the State legislature, addresses it in person or sends messages to it, and can prorogue or dissolve it (Article 174). During every financial year, he causes the budget to be laid before the House. Demands for grants in the legislature can be made only on his recommendation. Every Bill that is passed by the State legislature has to be presented to the Governor for his assent. The Governor has three alternatives before him with respect to such a Bill. He may give his assent to it, in which case it becomes a law. Or, he may return it to the legislature with a message suggesting alterations or modifications. The Governor has, however, no power to return a Money Bill (defined in Article 199). Or again, he may preserve the Bill for the assent of the President if, in his opinion, it contains provisions which might endanger the position envisaged for the High Court under the Constitution (Article 200).

The Governor has also the special legislative power of promulgating ordinances during the recess of the State legislature, if he is satisfied that there exist circumstances which make it necessary for him to take immediate action. But with respect to three matters, the Governor is prohibited from promulgating ordinances without prior instructions from the President. These are :

(1)  if the ordinance contains provisions which, if embodied in a Bill, would require the previous sanction of the President for introduction in the State legislature; or

(2)  if the Governor would have deemed it necessary to reserve a Bill containing the same provisions for the consideration of the President; or

(3)  if an Act of the State legislature containing the same provisions would be invalid without the assent of the President.

Every ordinance promulgated by the Governor has the same force and effect as an Act of the State legislature but if the ordinance is not upheld by the legislature when it reassembles, then the ordinance becomes invalid. The Governor is empowered to withdraw the ordinance any time he likes. The ordinance will be invalid if it has provisions which would not be valid if enacted in an Act of the State legislature to which the Governor gives his assent.

During the period of emergency, the Governor comes into his own as the real head of the executive in the State. With the proclamation of an emergency by the President the entire State administration comes directly under the control of the Union. Being the “man on the spot” and “agent” of the Union Government in the State, the Governor, during the period of emergency, takes over the reins of administration directly into his own hands and runs the State with the administrative aid of bureaucrats.

The Governor and the Council of Ministers

In the exercise of all his functions, except when he is expressly required to act in his discretion, the Governor is aided and assisted by a Council of Ministers headed by a Chief Minister (Article 163). But if there is a conflict of opinion between the Governor and the ministry as to whether or not a particular matter falls within the scope of the Governor’s discretionary power, the decision of the Governor in his discretion shall be final. Further, the validity of anything done by the Governor cannot be called in question on the grounds that he ought or ought not to have acted in his discretion. Although the Governor has to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers, the question whether any, and if so what, advice was tendered by the Ministers to the Governor cannot be enquired into by any court.

The Governor appoints the Chief Minister and on the advice of the Chief Minister he appoints other Ministers. The Ministers hold office during the pleasure of the Governor. The Ministers are collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly of the State just as the Union Ministers are responsible to the Lok Sabha. The Governor administers the oath of office to each Minister before he assumes his office. The Governor can appoint as Minister a person who is not a member of the State legislature at the time of appointment. But such a Minister should become a member of the legislature within six months after entering upon his office.

We have already noticed that all executive actions of the State Government are taken in the name of the Governor. In this connection, the Governor is authorised to make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the State Government. He is also empowered to allocate among Ministers the business of the Government except where he is expected to act in his discretion. It is the duty of the Chief Minister as the head of the Council of Ministers to communicate to the Governor all decisions of the Council relating to the administration of the affairs of the State and proposals for legislation. He has also to furnish any information which the Governor calls for and which is connected with any administrative or legislative matter of the State. Again, it is the duty of the Chief Minister to place before the Council, if the Governor so requires, any matter on which a decision has been taken by a Minister but which has not been considered by the Council.

These provisions of the Constitution vest in the Governor a fairly long list of powers which, if taken on their face value, will add up to formidable proportions. Yet, by the very nature of his office, the Governor is only a Constitutional Head of the State. This means that although he is the “chief executive”, in the exercise of his functions, the real power lies in the hands of the Council of Ministers. This was pointed out again and again by the authorised spokesmen in the Constituent Assembly.

Interpreting the scope of the provision that “the Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor,” Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said that : “I have no doubt that it is the intention of this Constitution that the Ministry shall hold office during such time as it holds the confidence of the majority. It is on this principle that the Constitution will work. The reason why we have not so expressly stated it is because it has not been stated in that fashion or in those terms in any of the constitutions which lay down a parliamentary system of Government. ‘During pleasure’ is always understood to mean that the ‘pleasure’ shall not continue notwithstanding the fact the Ministry has lost the confidence of the majority; it is presumed that the Governor will exercise his ‘pleasure’ in dismissing the Ministry and, therefore, it is unnecessary to differ from what I may say the stereotyped phraseology which is used in all responsible Governments.”

It is difficult to think of a Governor under a fully responsible system of Government established on the broadest possible popular basis, to behave in an authoritarian manner, when a Cabinet composed of popular Ministers, collectively responsible to the legislature, is to aid and advise the Governor in the discharge of his functions. Occasions are almost non-existent for him to overrule them or act in a manner contrary to their advice. Nevertheless, a careful reading of the Constitutional provisions and an appreciation of them in the perspective of the totality of Constitutional scheme, will show that the Governor is not a mere figurehead but a functionary designed to play a vital role in the administration of the affairs of the State.

The occasions which will give such an opportunity to the Governor to act in his discretion appear to be the following :

(1)   the selection of a Chief Minister prior to the formation of a Council of Ministers;

(2)   dismissal of a Ministry;

(3)   dissolution of the Legislative Assembly;

(4)   asking information from the Chief Minister relating to legislative and administrative matters;

(5)   asking the Chief Minister to submit for the consideration of the Council of Ministers any matter on which a decision has been taken by a Minister but which has not been considered by the Council;

(6)   refusing to give assent to a Bill passed by the legislature and sending it back for reconsideration;

(7)   reserving a Bill passed by the State legislature for the assent of the President;

(8)   seeking instructions from the President before promulgating any ordinance dealing with certain matters;

(9)   advising the President for the proclamation of emergency; and (10)         in the case of Governor of Assam, certain administrative matters connected with the tribal areas and settling disputes between the Governor of Assam and the district council (of an autonomous district) with respect to mining royalties.      

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