Governors must Fulfill their Duties and not Delay Bills: Justice BV Nagarathna

Justice BV Nagarathna urges Governors to adhere to constitutional principles, emphasizing their duty to promptly address bills to avoid litigation. She critiques delays in governance, especially in instances like demonetization, highlighting the need for transparent decision-making processes.

Justice BV Nagarathna expressed concern over the recent surge in legal disputes involving State Governors who are refusing to approve bills passed by legislatures, urging them to adhere to constitutional principles. Addressing the "Courts and The Constitution Conference" at NALSAR University, Hyderabad, Justice Nagarathna highlighted the growing trend of Governors facing litigation due to their inaction or refusal to give assent to bills. She emphasized the importance of Governors fulfilling their constitutional duties to minimize such legal challenges.

Justice Nagarathna remarked, "The recent trend has been that the Governor of a state is becoming a point of litigation because of either omission by not considering the bills in assenting or giving opinion on the bills or other kinds of actions which the Governors would take. I feel this is not a healthy trend under the Constitution to bring the actions or omissions of the Governor of a state for consideration before constitutional courts. I think I must appeal that the office of the Governor, though it is called a gubernatorial post, it is a serious Constitutional post. The Governors must discharge their duties under the Constitution in accordance with Constitution, so that this kind of litigation before the law courts reduce. It is quite embarrassing for the Governors to be told to do or told not do a thing. Hence, the time has come where they would be now told, I suppose, to discharge their duties in accordance with the Constitution."

Several State Governments, including those of Punjab, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, have filed writ petitions in the Supreme Court challenging Governors' refusals to grant assent to bills. The Supreme Court has intervened in such cases, emphasizing the urgency of Governors to promptly address pending bills. Notably, the Court has ruled that Governors cannot veto bills by delaying assent indefinitely. Criticism has also been directed at Governors for their delays in taking action on bills, prompting questions about their responsiveness to legislative matters. The recent instance involving the Tamil Nadu Governor's refusal to re-induct an MLA as a Minister despite a Supreme Court ruling exemplifies the need for Governors to act decisively and in accordance with legal directives.

Reflecting on the judiciary's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Justice Nagarathna commended the proactive measures taken by the Supreme Court under the leadership of former Chief Justice UU Lalit. She praised the establishment of constitution benches to address the backlog of pending cases, demonstrating the Court's commitment to dispensing justice efficiently. Justice Nagarathna highlighted the significance of these benches in resolving longstanding legal disputes across various domains, showcasing the judiciary's adaptability and dedication to upholding the rule of law.

Justice Nagarathna also discussed her dissenting opinion in the demonetization case, where she opposed the government's decision to invalidate ₹500 and ₹1,000 currency notes. She raised concerns about the efficacy of demonetization in curbing black money, noting that a significant portion of the demonetized currency was reintroduced into circulation. Justice Nagarathna questioned the government's approach to demonetization and its impact on ordinary citizens. She emphasized the need for transparent decision-making processes and adherence to legal norms in policymaking, criticizing the lack of consultation and deliberation in implementing demonetization.