Calcutta, June 26: Trinamul Congress leaders today criticised governor M.K. Narayanan for saying that “legal advice” from the administration did not talk of seeking presidential assent for the Singur law.
“I thought we did not require the president’s approval. That was the legal advice also. If the high court felt otherwise, it’s fine. That’s ok. What can we do?” the governor had said in response to a question yesterday.
A Calcutta High Court division bench had cited absence of presidential assent as one of the key reasons for striking down the Singur law last week.
Today, asked by reporters about the government’s stand that presidential assent was not needed for the Singur legislation and that he was advised accordingly, Narayanan said: “It’s okay. They are right. And that is why I agreed with them.”
The governor said this on the sidelines of the seventh convocation of the West Bengal University of Animal and Fisheries Sciences.
The governor’s clarification made it clear that he was not blaming anyone and he had merely made a matter-of-fact statement in reply to a question.
But some Trinamul leaders appear to have taken exception to his decision to speak in public on the matter.
A few party leaders had yesterday sought to pass the buck to advocate-general Anindya Mitra, which a senior official had said was unfair.
Today, several Trinamul leaders, including a senior minister in the state cabinet, took swipes at the governor, probably assuming that his statement had discredited the government.
Trinamul MP and lawyer Kalyan Banerjee recounted the chronology of events at Raj Bhavan on June 11 to drive home the point that the governor could not hold “legal advice” from the government solely responsible for signing the bill.
“Initially, Partha Chatterjee (industries minister) and Malay Ghatak (law minister) went to Raj Bhavan to request the governor to sign the Singur bill. The governor then said that he would take legal advice first. The state advocate-general is legally authorised to provide such advice to the governor. So, Anindyada went to the governor and discussed the bill for 40-50 minutes,’’ Banerjee said.
“Our governor is not an illiterate person. He is knowledgeable, as far as I know. After understanding the implications, the contents of the bill… after going through the advocate-general’s advice, he signed the legislation,’’ Banerjee added.
Banerjee wondered why Narayanan hadn’t spoken of “legal advice’’ when the high court’s single bench gave a ruling in favour of the government.
“What was the governor doing then? He didn’t utter a word. If the Supreme Court strikes down the high court’s division bench’s verdict, will our governor maintain what he is saying now?’’ the lawyer asked.
Trinamul leader and state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said, “I haven’t seen or heard him saying such things (that the government’s legal advice was that presidential assent wouldn’t be required). However, I strongly believe that he didn’t make such comments.’’
Asked what led him to his belief, the panchayat minister added: “That’s because, no sensible person can do that.’’
Another Trinamul minister, who did not wish to be quoted, accused the governor of making private discussions public. “The governor is an experienced and mature person. He should not have brought into the public domain discussions he had with our government…. It was really unbecoming of the governor to make such remarks yesterday, as also today,’’ the minister said.
Trinamul’s Basirhat (North) Assembly candidate and high court lawyer Sardar Amjad Ali demanded the advocate-general’s resignation on the ground that his “legal advice”' had led to the government losing in court.
“The advocate-general should own moral responsibility for giving wrong advice to the governor and resign,” said Ali.