Context: There is a political crisis in Maharashtra, after the legislative assembly election over formation of a new state government.
- As no political party was able to prove their majority in thelegislative assembly, the President’s rule was imposed in the state following recommendation by the Governor.
- Later the President’s rule was revoked and theBharatiya Janta Party led by Devendra Fadnavis formed the government with help of a faction of Nationalist Congress Party led by Ajit Pawar.
- The government formation was challenged by other parties includingShiv Sena, Indian National Congress and the faction of Nationalist Congress Party led by Sharad Pawar.
A hung parliament is a term used in legislatures under the Westminster system to describe a situation in which no particular political party or pre-existing coalition has an absolute majority of legislators in a parliament or other legislature.
- There are growing instances of a hung assembly in states with the recent example of Karnataka and Maharashtra.
- This has opened up many questions regarding the role of governor in case of hung assembly
- The Constitution of India does not mandate any procedure to be followed by the Governor, in case of hung assembly which gives scope for the Governor to use his discretion.,
- She/he has the discretion to invite any leader to form the government
- But she/he must make a choice keeping in mind the leader’s ability to prove his majority on the floor of the House, and to provide a stable government
- SARKARIA COMMISSION REPORT (1983)
- The Sarkaria Commission formed in 1983 came out with a detailed report which discusses the Role of Governor in case of a hung assembly
- As per the Sarkaria Commission report, if there is a single party having an absolute majority in the Assembly, the leader of the party should automatically be asked to become the Chief Minister.
However, if there is no such party, the Governor should select a Chief Minister from among the following parties or group of parties by sounding them, in turn, in the order of preference indicated below:
- An alliance of parties that was formed prior to the Elections.
- The largest single party staking a claim to form the government with the support of others, including “independents.”
- A post-electoral coalition of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the Government.
- A post-electoral alliance of parties, with some of the parties in the alliance forming a Government and the remaining parties, including “independents” supporting the Government from outside.
- PUNCHHI COMMISSION REPORT (2010)
- Headed by former Chief Justice of India MM Punchhi and also comprising eminent academics like NR Madhava Menon, this committee had submitted its report in 2010.
- This report extensively refers to Sarkaria Commission Report.
The guidelines in case of Hung Assembly, as recommended by Punchhi Commission are as follows:
(a) The party or combination of parties which commands the widest support in the Legislative Assembly should be called upon to form the Government.
(b) If there is a pre-poll alliance or coalition, it should be treated as one political party and if such coalition obtains a majority, the leader of such coalition shall be called by the Governor to form the Government.
(c) In case no party or pre-poll coalition has a clear majority, the Governor should select the Chief Minister in the order of preference indicated below:
- the group of parties which had pre-poll alliance commanding the largest number;
- the largest single party staking a claim to form the government with the support of others;
- a post-electoral coalition with all partners joining the government; and
- a post-electoral alliance with some parties joining the government and the remaining including independents supporting the government from outside;
The Punchhi commission, therefore, ends by suggesting that necessary Constitutional amendments should be made and specific guidelines should be laid down on the approach/procedure to be adopted by the Governor.
SR BOMMAI V. UNION OF INDIA
- This judgment was delivered in 1994 by a Constitution Bench of 7- judges. This case was dealing with the imposition of President’s Rule under Article 356 and the exercise of powers of the Governor in relation to that.
- The Sarkaria Commission report was cited extensively in that judgment. Many of the recommendations of Sarkaria Commission are also endorsed in that judgment, but with respect to Article 356.
- With regard to a situation arising after the election, the Court however held that the Governor has to invite the leader of the party commanding majority in the House or the single largest party/group to form the Government.
CHANDRAKANT KAVLEKAR V. UNION OF INDIA
- This case pertained to elections held in the State of Goa.
- The Indian National Congress emerged as the single largest party in the elections. However, BJP had approached the Governor with the support of other parties and independent MLAs and formed government.
- The Congress had approached the Supreme Court against this disputing the facts set out by BJP. The issue of the preference which the Governor has to adhere to was also raised.
- But the Supreme Court did not go into any of that; instead by a 3-page order it ordered that a floor test be held to see if the BJP can prove majority.
- In 2006, President of India (then) Dr A P J Abdul Kalam while addressing the governors had emphasized the relevance of recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission and said “While there are many checks and balances provided by the Constitution, the office of the Governor has been bestowed with the independence to rise above day-to-day politics and override compulsions either emanating from the central system or the state system.”
- The governor should analyze which political party or alliance is forming the majority on the basis of constitutional provisions and should act in an unbiased manner upholding the spirit of constitution.
QUESTION: Using the case study of Karnataka, Discuss the roles and responsibility of the governor in case of a hung assembly. (20 marks)