Q. Why this issue is in News?
A. The recent Rajasthan government crisis has brought into the spotlight the role of the Governor in summoning the House of the State Assembly.
Q What is the ongoing Rajasthan issue ?
A. The Rajasthan Governor has returned the proposal by the State Cabinet, seeking to convene a session of the Assembly, for the second time, which would have allowed the Rajasthan chief minister to prove his strength on the floor of the House.
This has raised legal questions on the powers of the Governor to summon a House.
Q. Who has powers to Summon the House?
A. Article 174 of the Constitution authorizes the Governor to summon, dissolve and prorogue the state legislative assembly.
However, the Governor can exercise the above only as per Article 163 of the Constitution which says that the Governor acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister.
Q. What is Supreme Court of India’s past obsrevations on this issue?
A. In 2016, the Supreme Court in Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix vs Deputy Speaker case (the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly case) said that the power to summon the House is not solely vested in the Governor and should be exercised with aid and advice of Council of Ministers and not at his own.
The Court highlighted the facts that the Governor is not an elected authority and is a mere nominee of the President, such a nominee cannot have an overriding authority over the representatives of the people, who constitute the House or Houses of the State Legislature.
Allowing the Governor to overrule the State Legislature or the State executive would not harmoniously augur with the strong democratic principles enshrined in the provisions of the Constitution. Specially so, because the Constitution is founded on the principle of ministerial responsibility.
Q. What are the Governor’s Discretionary Power?
A. Article 163 (1) essentially limits any discretionary power of the Governor only to cases where the Constitution expressly specifies that the Governor must act on his own and apply an independent mind.
The Governor can exercise his discretionary power under Article 174, when the chief minister has lost the support of the House and his strength is debatable.
Generally, when doubts are cast on the chief minister that he has lost the majority, the opposition and the Governor would ask for a floor test.
On numerous occasions, the courts have also clarified that when the majority of the ruling party is in question, a floor test must be conducted at the earliest available opportunity.
However in Rajasthan’s case, despite requests from the chief minister, who is enjoying the majority, the Governor has used discretionary power twice and returned requests to call for a session.
Q What is a Floor Test?
A. It is a term used for the test of the majority. If there are doubts against the Chief Minister (CM) of a State, he/she can be asked to prove the majority in the House.
In case of a coalition government, the CM may be asked to move a vote of confidence and win a majority.
In the absence of a clear majority, when there is more than one individual staking claim to form the government, the Governor may call for a special session to see who has the majority to form the government.