Voicing displeasure over Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan "sitting" for two years on bills passed by the state legislature, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday it will consider laying down the guidelines as to when the governors can refer bills to the President of India for assent.
While noting that the Kerala governor has taken decisions with regard to eight bills, the apex court asked him to meet Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the minister concerned to discuss the legislations, observing let's hope some "political sagacity" takes over.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud took note of the submissions of Attorney General R Venkataramani, appearing for the office of the governor, that out of the eight bills, seven have been "reserved" for consideration by the president, while Khan has given his assent to one.
"What was the governor doing for two years by sitting on the bills?" the bench, also comprising justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, asked.
The attorney general said he does not wish to go into detail as doing so will open several questions.
"We will get into it very much," the bench observed, adding it is "about our accountability to the Constitution and people ask us about it".
The top court permitted the Kerala government to amend its plea seeking issuance of guidelines for state governors to grant or decline assent to bills passed by legislatures in a time-bound manner.
"We will record that the governor will discuss the matter with both the chief minister and the minister in charge and related to the Bill...," the bench said.
"Let us hope that some political sagacity takes over the state and we hope some sagacity prevails. Otherwise, we are here to lay down the law and do our duty under the Constitution," CJI Chandrachud said.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by the Kerala government over the governor not granting assent to several bills cleared by the state assembly.
At the outset, senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the state government, said time has come for the apex court to lay down some guidelines as to when the bills can be reserved for presidential assent.
The governor cannot be allowed to sit over bills as it halts governance, he added.
Venugopal said instead of working with the assembly, the governor was acting as an adversary.
The bench, which was initially of the view that the state government's petition could be disposed of as the governor has taken decision on the bills, later decided to keep it pending and consider laying down guidelines on the issue.
"We have to keep the matter pending. This is a live issue," it said.
The court said as the governor has forwarded the bills to the president, the requirement under Article 200 of the Constitution, which deals with assent to bills, was satisfied.
Earlier, the top court had asked the additional chief secretary to the Kerala governor to refer to its recent verdict in Punjab's case where it held that state governors cannot "thwart the normal course of lawmaking".
The Kerala government claimed in its petition that the governor was delaying eight bills by withholding his assent which was "defeating the rights of the people".
It said many of these bills were of immense public interest and provided for welfare measures. The people of the state will stand deprived of these to the extent of the delay, it said.
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