Won't sign on ordinances blindly, not desirable for democracy: Guv

Governor Arif Mohammad Khan
Governor Arif Mohammad Khan

New Delhi: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Monday said that he was against blindly signing ordinances and that 'ruling through ordinances is not desirable for a democracy'.

He was responding to reporters in New Delhi.

The Kerala Governor had expressed dissent over renewing the 11 key ordinances, including the Kerala Lok Ayukta amendment bill, without presenting them in the assembly. The Governor demanded that the Chief Minister or the respective Ministers must elaborate on the reasons for continuously renewing the ordinances.

Khan said he was not going to approve their repromulgation without going through the ordinances.

He added that 13-14 ordinances were sent to him on the day he was leaving the state for Delhi to attend a meeting of the 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' committee and did not have the time to go through all of them.

"I need time to go through them. I have to apply my mind. Do you want me to sign them without applying my mind? We must uphold the spirit of democracy and ruling through ordinances is not something which is desirable in a democracy," the Governor said while speaking to reporters in the national capital.

"During certain emergencies, you can bring in an ordinance. Thereafter, it has to be ratified in the assembly session. It cannot happen that you continue promulgating the ordinance again and again. Why is there a Legislative Assembly if you are going to rule through ordinances," Khan said.

In the instant case there is no explanation why such emergency measures should continue, he added.

He also reiterated that he would not be taking a decision regarding the ordinances without properly applying his mind and for that he requires time to go through them.

"Give me enough time. Why should all these ordinances come in one day? To hurry it up? I am not going to hurry it up," he added.

Khan further said that "Governors are there to ensure business of a state is carried out in accordance with the Constitution and the law. If I do not behave in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, how can I expect others to."

"The spirit of the Constitution is that no government can rule for long periods through ordinances. Even the Supreme Court has passed strictures against continued promulgation of ordinances," he said.

Chief Secretary call on Kerala Guv

As part of the Government’s appeasement efforts, the State Chief Secretary V P Joy called on the Governor at Delhi and requested him to sign the ordinances. The Governor expressed his displeasure on the State’s move to bring an ordinance curbing the Chancellor's power in the appointment of the University Vice-Chancellor.

The files containing the details on the Cabinet decision to renew the ordinances had reached Raj Bhavan for Governor’s approval. In response to this, Arif Mohammed Khan wrote to Pinarayi Vijayan seeking an explanation. The ordinances will turn invalid on Monday if the Governor abstains from signing them.

Most of the ordinances sent for approval were renewed at least twice earlier. The Governor particularly asks in his letter why the bills were not presented during the Assembly sessions and passed as legislation. The Governor abstained from signing the order renewing these ordinances.

Appointment of Kerala University VC

The Government had decided to curb the Chancellor's powers of the Governor in the appointment of Kerala University Vice Chancellor by bringing out an ordinance. Provoked by this, the Governor, in turn, swiftly constituted a search committee for the VC’s appointment challenging the Government’s move.

It is suspected that Khan left for Delhi without signing the renewal of ordinances following this incident. He is to return to Raj Bhavan only by night on August 11. Kerala Chief Minister is also in Delhi to participate in the Niti Aayog meet. Nevertheless, it is not clear whether the Governor and the CM would meet in Delhi.

On whether his decision not to sign the ordinances till date was due to any displeasure with the state government's alleged proposal to bring an ordinance to dilute his powers as Chancellor, the Governor said there was nothing like that.

He said he was unaware of any proposed ordinance aimed at diluting his powers as the Chancellor and therefore, he cannot comment on the same.

Khan also clarified that there was no fight between him and the state government.

He said that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has assured that there will be no state government interference in the powers of the Chancellor with regard to the functioning of universities.

"It was only after this assurance by the chief minister that I resumed my duties as Chancellor. Now there is no interference. I am thankful to the chief minister for that. So, where is the question of a fight? He has made the position abundantly clear," Khan said.

The ordinances would turn void and invalid if not renewed within 42 days from the start of the Assembly sessions. Even if there are a few days delay in bringing out the ordinances after renewal, signing and approving the same with retrospective effect can prevent it from turning invalid, clarified legal sources.

Key ordinances to be renewed

Of the key ordinances to be renewed, the Kerala Lokayukta amendment bill is of prime importance. The Governor had refused to approve it when it was first presented. Following the Governor’s dissent, the CM had then called on him and talked it out.

This was an amendment brought in by the Government to curb the Lok Ayukta’s powers against fighting corruption. The amendment ordinance was approved and notified by the Government on February 7, even as the Lok Ayuktha was considering pleas against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, a few other Ministers and former Ministers.

The other ordinances awaiting renewal, with the number of times it has been renewed already mentioned in brackets: Kerala Maritime Board amendment (2), Local self-governance public service (1), Kerala Public Services Commission amendment (3), Kerala Private Forests vesting and assignment (7), Industrial single window board and industrial township development (2), Kerala board for appointments in public sector undertakings (1), Kerala Public Health ordinance (5), Kerala jewellery workers welfare fund (6), Kerala Cooperative societies amendment (2) and Live stock, poultry feed and Mineral mixture (5).

Among the ordinances set to expire, the Kerala Lokayukta (Amendment) Ordinance provides that the Governor, Chief Minister or the state government would be the competent authority and he or it may either accept or reject the declaration by the Lokayukta, after giving an opportunity of being heard.

The Congress-led UDF opposition is against the ordinance and had back in February urged the Governor not to sign it.

(With PTI inputs.)

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