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Published in the 1-15 Mar 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

SPECIAL REPORT

Democracy fouled in Goa

By Rajindar Sachar

The Milli Gazette Online

Murder most foul of democracy is the only way to describe the patently untenable action of Governor of Goa in not only dismissing the Parrikar Ministry but with indecent haste in swearing in Congress Ministry. This action as Supreme Court put it almost 30 years back is reminiscent of the happenings in the age of Stuarts of England in the 16th century. 

No doubt the Speaker’s action in expelling MLA Rodrigues was equally indefensible. But that could not justify the action of Governor, which shows that the latter had already decided to dismiss Parrikar Ministry encouraged possibility by the presence and advise of Congress Union Cabinet Minister at Raj Bhawan.

Now the Governor felt that the Speaker had denied the right of voting to the legislators he could have asked the Chief Minister to have a fresh voting in the legislature. Parrikar legally would have had to comply with this direction. 

Governor cannot plead that he could not risk asking the Chief Minister to seek fresh vote of confidence because Speaker may have adjourned the Assembly to defeat vote being taken. This fear is unfounded. Decades back the Supreme Court while interpreting Article 174(2) of the Constitution has held that the Governor has power to prorogue the House, even if it is in session and further that house can be re-summoned thereafter to transact the business directed by the Governor (in this case) to seek a vote of confidence And if Parrikar had refused to do so, the Governor could legally have dismissed Parrikar and either recommend Presidents Rule under Article 356 or could swear in Rane Ministry but with a caveat to him to prove his majority within a week. 

The Governor however did not adopt this constitutional method but purported to exercise Henry VIII Royal power which is extant since middle ages in England – thereafter a King of England was even hanged for defying Magna Carta principles. Governor’s arrogance of proclaiming that by virtue of Article 164 - he was withdrawing his pleasure from Chief Minister Parrikar purports to suggest as if the Chief Minister is in the personal service of the Governor. Surely Jamir, a former Chief Minister must know our constitution envisages a Parliamentary system of Government both at the Centre and the States and that neither the President nor the governor can exercise any power at his pleasure. Governors power are restrained by the Constitution and he cannot glorify himself as an heir to the memory of Henry VIII. To such presumptuous arrogance, the Supreme Court gave a firm warning years back when it warned “no one is an imporium in our imperia in our Constitutional order. Unchecked power is alien to our system.”

To make the spiteful action more thunderous the Governor swore in as a Minister Rodrigues whom the Speaker had ordered out of the house. This act reminds one of the usual Hindi movie where the Mafia Don’s goon is thrashed by a honest person and Don comes back accompanied by his goons and makes his brother to beat that person ruthlessly – it is this kind of perverted sense of pleasure that is visible in this action by the Governor and Rane.

Alas the reality is that the Constitution of India was framed by gentlemen, to be carried out by gentlemen. But when rulers of a different kind start occupying such constitutional positions, aberrations bringing disrepute to the high office are bound to take place.

Already this event threatens to engulf the country into rival bitter fights. Goa which is the topmost tourist centre in the country is bound to suffer a grievous blow. Could the Congress and B.J.P. show some respect to the norms of democratic functioning. It is obvious that with the amorality of MLA in changing their loyalties, the chance of either of the party being allowed to form a stable Govt. would be an impossibility. Already Rane Ministry is being threatened by a split. The wisdom of both parties lies in their joint request to the Governor to dissolve the legislature and order fresh elections. It should also be agreed that Rane Govt. will resign immediately and there will be no caretaker Govt. in the interim. During this period it will be Governor’s Rule – certainly not by Jamir – he has forfeited the right to act as a neutral referee – he is being rightly accused of having functioned as a stooge of Congress to score a penalty kick in the goal of B.J.P. A new Governor must be appointed for Goa under whom fresh elections will take place. Such a course may stem the tide for bitter street fighting and bringing back on rail the democratic system. Such a course favours none – this course will permit the real sovereign – the people to elect their representatives thus keeping to put the system back on rails. 

Too much of sanctity of the constitution is at stake – the political parties cannot adopt ostrich like approach and avoid taking hard decisions by taking an amoral stand. The question raised deal with conventions and certain principles of probity and correct political behaviour; all this cannot be left to the slow, technical and wooden approach by the courts. Such a course will only heighten the political friction and bitterness. If the country is to prosper, it needs a quietus to the present distasteful controversy. Could the main two political parties not rise above their petty political postures and think of the country rather than of small gains. Let free election under a new Governor determine peoples choice.

That is why there is a grave concern in the country at the principles of selection of Governor post. At present, he owes his appointment to the sole pleasure of the Central Govt., and so he can afford to behave in a partisan manner. I feel that appointments of Governor should be made by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the leaders of the opposition of both Houses. The power of removal should also be in the same Committee to be exercised by a unanimous vote.
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