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Governor’s role in Hung Assembly

Mains -GS2- Polity

Hung assembly in Maharashtra elections has once again raised the role of Governors in forming a government.

What is Governor’s role in a Hung Assembly?

1. According to Article 163, the Governor act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, except in those situations where he is required to act in his discretion.

2. So, during Hung Assembly, Governor has to identify a candidate who, in his opinion, is in a position to command a majority, subject to democratic norms. 

3. In such cases, the Chief Minister has to prove the majority within a specified time on the floor of the House.

Who has made recommendations on this matter?

1. The Sarkaria Commission on inter-State relations has suggested an order to be followed by Governors to call for forming a government.

2. The order for the governor to follow is

a. An alliance formed prior to the election

b. The largest single party staking claim with the support of others, including independents.

c. A post-electoral coalition, with all partners joining the government.

d. A post-poll coalition, with some joining the government, and others extending support from outside.

3. The Commission also observed that the Governor’s responsibility is only to ensure the formation of a government.

4. Governor should not try to form a government that will pursue policies that he/she approves.

5. It has also recommended that a person appointed as Chief Minister without a clear majority, should seek a vote of confidence in the Assembly within 30 days.

Where is the majority ascertained?

1. Earlier, the party brings legislators supposedly supporting them in Raj Bhavan, and it is verified by Governors through a headcount or by verifying signatures.

2. This approach was disapproved by courts.

3. So, now the majority is decided on the floor of the Assembly.

4. Normally, under Article 174, the Governor summons the House only on the advice of the Council of Ministers.

5. But in case of the floor test, Governor has the constitutional right to summon the house even before the formation of the government.

How has the Supreme Court given clarity?

1. In the S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India case (1994) the court observed that floor test alone is constitutionally approved forum to test the strength of the ministers.

2. In Rameshwar Prasad (2005), the court ruled that the Governor can call the post-poll combination for the formation of a government only if it is ethical.

Which are the other issues?

Separation of powers

1. The intervention of courts by ordering floor tests affects the separation of powers as the judiciary impacts parliamentary independence.

2. But such intervention is regarded as necessary to preserve constitutional and democratic values as delay in floor test could result in horse-trading.

3. So, the intervention by the courts is justified as an act of protecting democratic values.

Government Formation

1. Seeking letters of support, requiring Chief Ministers to prove their majority, and entertaining letters of withdrawal of support have so far been based on convention.

2. This has resulted in many controversies and required judicial intervention.

3. A set of written instructions or guidelines for Governors to act in such situations has to be put in place.

Source: The Hindu