The Telangana government on Monday (April 24) told the Supreme Court that elected legislators are at the “mercy” of governors, after the governor’s office informed the apex court that no bills are pending approval with it as of now.
A bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha, which was hearing a plea moved by the Telangana government seeking directions to the state’s governor to clear 10 bills that have been passed by the Assembly but are awaiting gubernatorial assent, took note of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s statement to this effect and closed the proceedings.
Mehta told the court that as per the communication received from the governor’s secretary no bills are pending with the governor.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who represented the Telangana government in the court, told the bench that “elected legislators are at the mercy of the governors,” while urging the judges to decide on the case for “once and all.”
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When Dave said this is happening only in Opposition-ruled states, Mehta said he would not generalise it like this.
Dave referred to Article 200 of the Constitution, which deals with assent to bills and says when a bill has been passed by the Legislative Assembly or, in the case of a state that also has a Legislative Council, by both Houses of the legislature, it shall be presented to the governor who shall either declare that he assents to the bill or he withholds assent therefrom or that he reserves the bill for the presidents consideration.
“Now, there is nothing pending before the governor at this stage,” the bench observed.
Referring to the communication received by the solicitor general, the bench said, “In view of the above factual position, we are not entering into the merits of the issue raised in the petition at this stage.”
Dave referred to the first proviso of Article 200 that reads as, “… provided that the governor may, as soon as possible after the presentation to him of the bill for assent, return the bill if it is not a money bill, together with a message requesting that the House or Houses will reconsider the bill or any specified provisions thereof….”
Mehta requested the bench not to refer to the first proviso of Article 200 in its order.
A verbal exchange between the solicitor general and Dave ensued when the former said that shouting before the court will not help.
The CJI, however, said the bench would dispose of the matter.
In its order, the bench took note of the first proviso of Article 200 and said the expression “as soon as possible” must be borne in mind by constitutional authorities.
When Mehta said this is not necessary, the bench observed, “We have not said anything about this case.”
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The Telangana governor’s office told the top court on April 10 that assent was given to three bills passed by the state legislature and two bills were reserved for the President’s consideration and assent.
Mehta had told the bench that he had received a communication dated April 9 from the Telangana governor’s secretary with regard to the position of the bills that were submitted to the governor for assent.
The apex court had taken the letter on record and noted that the governor’s assent was given to the Telangana Motor Vehicles Taxation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Telangana Municipalities (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Professor Jayashankar Telangana Agricultural University (Amendment) Bill, 2023.
It had noted that the two bills reserved for the President’s consideration and assent were the University of Forestry Telangana Bill, 2022 and the Telangana Universities Common Recruitment Board Bill, 2022.
In its order, the bench had recorded that the bills that were under the governors active consideration were the Telangana State Private Universities (Establishment and Regulation) (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Telangana Municipal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Telangana Public Employment (Regulation of Age of Superannuation) (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
“The statement indicates that certain clarifications have been sought by the governor from the state government with regard to the Telangana Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2023,” the bench had said in its order.
The court had said that it was stated that the Azamabad Industrial Area (Termination and Regulation of Leases) (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was yet to be submitted by the law department for the governors consideration and assent.
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Dave had earlier told the apex court that in Madhya Pradesh, the governor grants assent to bills within seven days while in Gujarat, bills are cleared within a month.
Both Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are ruled by the BJP, which is also in power at the Centre.
On March 20, the top court sought the Centre’s response on the plea filed by the Telangana government.
The court had clarified that it would not issue a notice to the governor’s office but would like to see the Union of India’s reply on the state governments plea.
In its petition, the Telangana government had said it was constrained to move the apex court under Article 32 of the Constitution in view of a “constitutional impasse” created on account of the governors refusal to act on several bills passed by the state legislature.
It had said Article 200 empowers the governor to either give his assent to a bill passed by the Assembly or withhold the assent or reserve the bill for the President’s consideration.
The state government had said several bills passed by the assembly, including the Telangana Municipal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Telangana Public Employment (Regulation of Age of Superannuation) Amendment Bill, 2022 and the Telangana Universities Common Recruitment Board Bill, 2022, were awaiting Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan’s nod.
Soundararajan, a former Tamil Nadu BJP chief, is locked in a running feud with the Bharat Rashtra Samithi government in Telangana.
(With inputs from agencies)