Uncertainty over Governor’s assent to the Chancellor Ordinance worries government


Those privy to Raj Bhavan’s thinking say the odds of the Governor referring the Ordinance to the President are high

Those privy to Raj Bhavan’s thinking say the odds of the Governor referring the Ordinance to the President are high

The uncertainty over whether Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan will sign the Ordinance stripping him of his powers as Chancellor of the State’s universities has seemingly put the government at a legal and political crossroads.

The legislative or judicial route the administration chooses to pursue to render Raj Bhavan remote from the university administration and bestow the government with more elbow room to appoint Vice Chancellors could have far-reaching consequences for the polity.

President’s consideration

When queried about the Ordinance, Mr. Khan said somewhat cryptically in New Delhi: “If the State government is targeting me, I don’t want to judge it (Ordinance)“. The ruling front reportedly read ominous meanings into Mr. Khan’s statement. The statement indicated that the Governor might send the Ordinance to the President for consideration.

Certain quarters privy to Raj Bhavan’s thinking said the odds of Mr. Khan referring the Ordinance to the President were high, given his stated position on the controversial Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Bill. The Bill, passed by the Assembly and not signed into law by the Governor, seeks to emplace the Chief Minister as the appellate authority if the Lok Ayukta, an anti-corruption watchdog, declares a “corrupt” Minister unworthy of high office.

Same yardstick

Mr. Khan deemed the Bill violated the principle of natural justice “no one should be a judge in their own cause” (Nemo judex in causa sua) and opposed it from the outset.

The sources felt Mr. Khan might apply the same yardstick, given that he is at the centre of the Ordinance that seeks to divest the Governor of his authority as Chancellor. Raj Bhavan reportedly felt any decision should be devoid of conflict of interest.

A dilemma

Nevertheless, the government seemed dead set on introducing the Ordinance as a Bill in the Assembly if the Governor refused to promulgate the executive order. However, the administration has to grapple with the consequential question of whether the Assembly, in which the government has the numbers to pass the Ordinance as a Bill, is legally competent to legislate on a subject under the active consideration of the President.

The ruling front is reportedly apprehensive about whether the government would get mired in a constitutional and political imbroglio if Mr. Khan opts for sending the Ordinance for the President’s approval instead of taking a call on his own.


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