Picking governors: plea for transparency

By K.G. Kannabiran
Recently, two former I.B. chiefs have been appointed as Governors of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. With this, all “problem states” now have police officers as Governers. The alibi is to contain “Maoist menace:” The trend of superannuating civil servants and making them Governors of States is likely to lead towards a “federated fascism”, an innovation writes K.G. Kannabiran.

The Executive power of the State is represented by the Governor. He formally expresses the decisions made and the orders passed by the elected ministers in office. All things done might be in his name but he neither reigns nor governs. A person who is thirty five yeas of age and is a citizen of India is eligible to be appointed as Governor by the President. But it is not an employer-employee relationship merely because his appointment is at President’s pleasure does not make him an employee of the Government. The Supreme Court in 1979 held that the Governor is not amenable to the directions of the Government of India nor is he accountable to them, for the manner in which he carried out his functions and duties. His is an independent Constitutional office which is not subject to the control of the Government of India. We have not thought of strengthening these institutions, nor set out norms which would guide him to hold and conduct oneself in office and towards public in dignity.despite around sixty years of Constitutional governance.

In Madras, in my student days, the post of governors was a subject matter of criticism. It was the subject of satire for the cultural wing of the Dravida Kazhagam party. M R Radha, a well known stage actor of DK, in one of his plays used to say that Congress Party is a very intelligent party, “If their candidate wins he will become a minister and should he lose he will became a governor!”  That was how Constitutional governance began its career.

The visible shift is from the governance by  elected representative to the  nominated Governor who, in combination with police chief in office, will administer the State and I suppose the minister having nothing better to do   will be left to appropriate the assets of the state.  The trend, as I see it, is towards a governance which is likely to be towards a federated fascism, an innovation.

Governors and Judges are not subjected to either a selection process or an election process. Nothing is very transparent. Though ours is a parliamentary democracy, the filling up of these constitutional positions are not routed through the Parliament debate or deliberation in the Parliament, not a   process which is mediated by representative institutions at the State and Union level, Though the citizens bring into being the entire Parliament by using their fundamental right to vote, it is not made known how Governors and Judges are selected.

What are the criteria for selecting Judge Dinakaran and N D Tiwari as Governors? Does the Constitution permit such improprieties? Are the citizens’ entitled to know the criteria, apart from the minimum qualifications required for appointment to the position of a public servant? What other criteria are required to be satisfied for these appointments? These Constitutional positions cannot be filled up by a process which is kept completely sub rosa. The election of Pope in Rome appears to be more transparent!

Instruments of sabotage
About  the judiciary’s present status, Arundathy Roy’s “Listening to the  Grasshopper” says it all more effectively and if no effort is made to cleanse the Augean stables the people will rise in an insurrection and will do it. Without applying for Special leave! I am concerned here with the appointment of the Governors to the States. From the time the Constitution came into force the power to appoint the Governor was abused. He was often used as an errand boy by the Union Government. The governor was the focus particularly during Indira Gandhi’s regime .She subverted the functioning of all institutions under the Constitution and, after her, all the instrumentalities of the State were abused by the ministries of the State Governments while Janatha Party was up in arms against Mrs. Gandhi.

Governors were intended to provide national unity. That is why after a full debate, it was decided to have the present system. It commenced with the refusal to permit Tanguturu Prakasam to form a ministry for fear of the communists coming to power in Madras in 1952... Rajaji was nominated to the Legislative Council and he harmed the Government. EMS Nambudiuripad’s Ministry in Kerala was undermined by a Report by the then Governor B. Ramakrishna Rao in 1957.  Yet we invite the Maoists to join the mainstream! The Sarkaria Commission has given the score card of the uses and abuses of power. This power was never used democratically. According to the Sarkaria Commission, between 1967 and 1987 sixteen governments lasted the full five year term. Premature exits were much faster in the later period, and a few lasted the full term. At first no communist government was allowed to function. With the passage of time the exercise of this power was subjected to trivialization and such of those who survived were used to topple elected governments and thus governors were used to sabotage or undermine constitutional governance.

Same game again
We are again at the same game. This time the pretext is the extra-parliamentary left. One is reminded of the message sent to Governor Sri Prakasa.”You have saved the country . No one could prevent the South from land-sliding into communism except our great and noble friend [Rajagopalachari] Years later LP Singh commented that step did not augur well for either the Constitutional practice or constitutional morality.

This experience of the left with the parliamentary system brought about a schism and gave birth to the Naxalite movement. If targeting systematically, the successive Congress governments would be found guilty of genocide. This led to the vast spread of Maoism in the country today. To tackle, they have appointed two superannuated IB Chiefs as governors of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. This at one stroke destroys politics of democracy and democratic governance and these were hailed by people as strong steps.

The visible shift is from the governance by  elected representative to the  nominated Governor who, in combination with police chief in office, will administer the State and I suppose the minister having nothing better to do will be left to appropriate the assets of the state. The trend, as I see it, is towards a governance which is likely to be towards a federated fascism, an innovation.

Senior advocate K.G. Kannabiran
is President, PUCL

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2010 on page no. 14

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