Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday said the Maharashtra Governor has a “constitutional obligation” to either accept or reject “within reasonable time” the proposal sent by the state cabinet to nominate 12 persons as Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs).
Eight months had passed since the cabinet sent the list of persons for nomination to the Upper House to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and this was “reasonable time”, a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni said. This impasse has to be resolved, it said. It would be “eminently desirable” if the governor discharged his obligation without much delay as seats in the Legislative Council cannot be kept vacant indefinitely, the court added. Though a governor is not answerable to the court, “We express our hope and trust that the constitutional obligation is fulfilled and things will be set right at an early date,” the judges said. “If the saying ”Everything happens for a reason” is to be believed then we are sure that there was a genuine reason for the Governor to not say anything until now on the proposal. “However, it is the duty of the Governor to speak and let the Chief Minister know about his views within reasonable time on the proposal,” the bench observed.
The court”s ruling came on a petition filed by Nashik resident Ratan Soli Luth seeking a direction to the governor to decide on the nominations submitted by the chief minister and council of ministers in November 2020, recommending 12 names for seats under the governor”s quota in the Upper House of the legislature. The state government, which had been made a party to the petition, had demanded before the HC that the governor take a decision within 15 days.
“In the present case, eight months have passed. This is a reasonable time according to us. It is important that the obligation of the governor in the present case is discharged without much delay,” the court said. The court, in its judgment, said for a government to function smoothly and in an orderly manner, abidance to constitutional norms and ethos is non-negotiable and there is absolutely no place for decisions based on personal whims or caprices. “In the humble opinion of this Court, the offices of the Governor and the Chief Minister of a State, or for that matter the Council of Ministers, are entitled (to get) respect from each other as well as other constitutional functionaries in fair measure, the ever-expanding uncertainties of political unrest notwithstanding,” the bench observed.
The court noted that all constitutional authorities and functionaries ought to stand tall and while rising above all differences of opinion, arrive at a workable solution as quickly as possible. “It is with the prompt and effective resolution of differences of opinion to take the nation forward that the respective incumbents would glorify the offices they hold and not otherwise,” the court said. Should there be any misunderstanding or miscommunication between two constitutional authorities, then these disagreements ought to be made known to each other so as to iron out the differences, the HC noted.
The state government had argued that the governor should have accepted its proposal on nominations and he cannot keep his decision pending. Under Article 171(5) of the Constitution, those nominated by the governor shall be persons having “special knowledge or practical experience” in respect of matters such as literature, science, art and social service. The delay by Koshyari in taking a decision on the proposal has become a major bone of contention between him and the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in the state. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had earlier this year taken a swipe at Koshyari, remarking that he hoped the government would not have to go to court on the issue.
While the term of legislators from the governor”s quota in the council ended in June last year, the cabinet sent its list of nominees only in November. Shortly after the HC ruling, the NCP expressed the hope Koshyari would take a decision on the nomination issue. Maharashtra minister and NCP spokesman Nawab Malik noted the high court has said the governor should take a decision at the earliest in the interest of the state. It is not correct for the governor to indefinitely delay the appointments, he said. “Even though there is no time-frame for the governor, it is the duty of the governor to approve a decision taken by the cabinet. It is mandatory and such a provision is there in the constitution,” Malik said. “Since the court has said a decision should be taken in the interest of the state, we hope the governor would do so,” the minister said. Malik said the HC has said the governor and the chief minister should work in tandem. “The gubernatorial post is a constitutional post and there should be no politics. The governor should keep in mind that he is not a political person,” the NCP leader said.