Kerala Governor demands report from govt for moving SC against CAA

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. File photo

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Sunday demanded a report from the state government for challenging the citizenship law in the Supreme Court without intimating him about the same.

"I'll not remain a mute spectator," he said continuing his aggressive stand against the state government.

"This is not a personal fight. What is important is the Constitution and law of land," Khan, who arrived from Bengaluru, told reporters here on Sunday evening.

Taking objection to the state government moving the Supreme Court against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) "without consulting" him, the governor has sought a report from the Chief Secretary.

Kerala govt softens stance

With the governor scheduled to deliver the customary address to the Kerala Legislative Assembly later this month, the state government is likely to soften its aggressive stand towards him over his backing of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

On Saturday state Law Minister A.K. Balan tried to play down the differences, saying the government has no intention to take a confrontationist stance against the Governor.

Balan said that if the Governor sought a clarification, the state government would surely respond. "We have never questioned the Governor and, in case, if it sounded like that, it pains us," said Balan.

Subsequently, the missive was sent from Khan's office asking Chief Secretary Tom Jose to submit a report. Government sources said a legal advice has been sought to draft a reply to Khan's query and that the state cabinet would meet on Monday to decide the next course of action.

The ordinance ordeal

Khan had also riled the state government by indicating his unwillingness to sign an Ordinance approved by the Cabinet in order to increase the number of wards in all local bodies by one and thus facilitate the delimitation of wards on the basis of the 2011 census.

The government now hopes to pacify the Governor so that he may reconsider his earlier stand on the emergency legislation which could scupper its plans for the local body elections likely in mid-2020. As reported earlier, Khan has already informally conveyed to A. C. Moideen, the Minister for Local Self-Governments, his intention not to give nod to the said Ordinance and urged to move a Bill in the legislature and get it passed.

The CPM-led LDF government is worried about the likely fallout if the Governor refused to sign the Ordinance if it brings it up formally. It is the state government's call to press on with the Ordinance or move a Bill. The state government could obviate the current uncertainty and also bypass the Governor by moving a Bill in the Assembly. However, the Governor has still the option of not giving assent to the Bill passed by the legislature.

The government's fresh approach to the Governor after a few days marked with unease could be evident soon. It may mollify the Governor as he seeks an explanation from them on two matters: 1) for not apprising him of the decision to approach the Supreme Court against the CAA and 2) more clarity on the proposed ordinance for increasing the number of wards of local bodies.

Meanwhile, the governor on Sunday sought an explanation from the state government over moving the Supreme Court challenging the CAA. The explanation was sought from the chief secretary.

The governor's stance is that he should have been informed before moving the apex court over matters relating to the central government.

The government is likely to reply within a short span after seeking legal advice. As per the Rules of Business of the state government, the state government has to inform the Governor while dealing with issues related to the central government. The state government will take a position that the decision to approach the Supreme Court was not at all based on the differences with the central government over the issue.

Tussle over CAA challenge

Ever since the controversial CAA was passed by the centre, there has been a growing divide between the Governor and the ruling LDF front. While, the state government opposed the legislation, the Governor backed the stand of the central government on the issue. The Governor even lashed out at the state government for approaching the Supreme Court against the Act.

On Saturday too, the Governor asserted that the matter was not a state subject and the states will have to implement the amended citizenship law. "There is no way other than implementing the act. It will have to be implemented under (Article) 254," Khan told reporters in response to a question on some states refusing to implement the new law.

The Left government in Kerala has said that it would not implement the law as it is "unconstitutional".

The growing unease between the government and Governor could have a bearing on the latter's address to the Legislative Assembly. As reported earlier, it has to be seen how much liberty the Governor could take with the traditional practice of reading out the policies of the state government during his speech amid the friction between the two.

The Governor's address is scheduled for January 30, the first day of the budget session, as the Assembly convenes later this month.

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