It is the duty of Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to declare his decision on nomination of 12 members of legislative Council (MLC) within reasonable time and failure to do so defeats the statutory intent, the Bombay high court said on Friday, while passing an order on a petition seeking declaration that the inaction was in breach of constitutional provisions.
The HC said as the list of nominees was forwarded to the governor by the council of ministers on November 6, 2020, the governor should have communicated his reservations about the list to the chief minister, rather than keeping the posts of MLCs vacant indefinitely. The court held that the governor should speak with the chief minister and let him know about his reservations on the list of nominees, if any, within reasonable time
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni while pronouncing the judgment in the public interest litigation filed by Nashik resident Ratan Luth said, “We declare the public law that there is obligation on the Governor to accept or return the recommendation made as part of advice has to be decided within reasonable time and eight months is sufficient time in the present facts.”
Arguing for the petitioner, senior advocate Aspi Chinoy had submitted that the governor’s failure was arbitrary, malafide and deprived the legislative council of the benefit of such nominees having special knowledge in various fields. Chinoy had submitted that by not taking a decision the governor had caused a loss to the general public.
The list submitted to the governor included the names of Vijay Karanjkar, Urmila Matondkar, Nitin Bangude-Patil and Chandrakant Raghuvanshi from the Shiv Sena; Eknath Khadse, Raju Shetti, Yashpal Bhinge and Anand Shinde from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP); and Rajni Patil, Sachin Sawant, Anniruddha Vankar and Muzaffar Hussain from the Congress.
The state, through senior counsel Rafiq Dada, had submitted that the governor was duty-bound to make nominations strictly based on the advice of the council of ministers and he had to either accept or reject the names and there was no third option, but the governor had not respected the recommendation and deprived the citizens of benefit of such persons.
The centre through additional solicitor general Anil Singh had submitted that while Article 171 of the Constitution granted the power to the Governor of a state to nominate members it also allowed him to use his discretion on the same.
While pronouncing the judgement, CJ Datta said, “Though the governor might have genuine reasons not to convey his decision earlier, the issue has to be resolved at the earliest. Whatever be the reason, it is time that the impasse is resolved. Eight months seems to be beyond reasonable time.”
While referring to the difference in opinions that may arise between the governor and the CM the bench said, “It is mature, sensible and responsible governance both at the centre as well as in the state that the people look upto. Should there be any misunderstanding between two constitutional authorities or functionaries, the right steps in the correct direction ought to follow.”
The bench opined that the offices of Governor, CM and ministers are “entitled to respect from each other in fair measure’ despite ‘ever-expanding uncertainties of political unrest“. The court held that the constitutional functionaries and authorities, “ought to stand tall and rise above all differences of opinion” and “arrive at workable solution as quickly as possible”.
“It would not behove the dignity, prestige and majesty of the office of a Constitutional authority/functionary to take shelter of absence of a time limit to act in terms of a provision of the Constitution, so as to defend an inaction when it is challenged in a Constitutional court,” the bench said. It added, “It is with the prompt and effective resolution of differences of opinion to take the nation forward that the respective incumbents would glorify the offices they hold, and not otherwise.”
The court concluded the judgement stating, “We will consider it eminently desirable if a decision is taken soon. We hope and trust that things will be set right at an early date.”