Kerala Governor Accused of Exceeding Constitutional Limits, Actions Politically Motivated
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.Image Courtesy: ANI
The actions and statements of Arif Mohammed Khan, the governor of Kerala, have raked up controversies frequently. The governor is being accused of intervening in the functioning of the universities, including the appointment process.
Recently, he called renowned historian Prof Irfan Habib a goonda and the vice chancellor of Kannur University, Gopinath Ravindran, a criminal, while the debate was on regarding the governor’s interventions in the administration of the university.
The remarks of the governor have invited strong words of condemnation from the academic community.
On the governance part, the governor refused to provide assent to repromolugated ordinances. Even as the Assembly is in session to pass such bills, the governor has said that he is the one to decide whether to sign the bills or not.
The actions of the governor amount to political confrontations, which the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) has been alleging of attempts to topple and destabilise the government.
The governor of Kerala has made a name for himself in making controversial statements against the government and academics.
During his visit to Delhi, he said, “Is it the job of an academic to indulge in physical fights? That is the job of a goonda. Irfan Habib is a goonda”.
A few days earlier, the governor called the Kannur University VC a criminal. He also claimed a conspiracy to attack him during the Indian History Congress held at Kannur University in 2019.
Earlier this month, the governor refused to approve the appointment of an associate professor on charges of nepotism in the university. The university administration and the government of Kerala refused the allegations of the governor and said that the process was held as per the existing laws.
Dr Sebastian Paul, former MP and an expert in constitutional matters, said that the governor is exceeding his role as a chancellor of the university.
“The post of the Chancellor is an ex-officio position and not a constitutional one. The governor is interfering in the administration and seems to impose his wishes, putting the universities under stress,” he told NewsClick.
Around 50 renowned academicians condemned the comments of governor Khan. The LDF, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], also condemned the remarks.
The incident once again brought Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the same page, with both demanding enquiries on the allegations of the governor.
‘OVERSTEPPING CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS’
The governor, on his return to the state, said that he was ashamed to be the Chancellor. In another statement, escalating the tension between the Raj Bhavan and the LDF government, the governor said that approving whatever bills passed by the Assembly is his right.
“Such statements will only create political confrontations. Making statements on whether or not to approve a bill even before it is passed gives wrong signals. The Assembly is contemplating to take back some power vested on the governor considering his inconsistent stand on university administration,” Paul said.
Referring to the duties and powers of the governors enshrined under the constitution, Paul said, “Arif Mohammed Khan is exceeding the constitutional powers. He is acting like a dictator, thinking that he is a king and the ministers must obey his orders, which is not the way our federal system functions.”
On the governor refusing to provide assent to ordinances repromulaged by the government, Paul said it is within the constitutional rights of the state government to promulgate ordinances.
“Earlier this year, the governor created a crisis when he held back the address to the Assembly prepared by the state government. He is bound to function as per the advice of the council of ministers. But his actions speak otherwise,” he said.
‘POLITICAL AMBITIONS BEHIND ACTIONS’
The LDF has continuously claimed that the Raj Bhavan has been attempting to destabilise the government. In an event, the CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan accused the Raj Bhavan of hatching a conspiracy against the LDF government.
To the question of whether the LDF is making a political statement on the governor’s action, Paul said, “It may look like a political statement, but the LDF has the right to interpret in such a way, given the activities of the governor on multiple occasions.”
“The governor is a politically ambitious person, given his political activism over the past several decades. He seems to have some schemes and calculations to create a crisis in the state, which the LDF has to fight politically and legally,” he added.
The BJP has thrown its weight behind the governor, with the Congress being part of the bandwagon on multiple occasions. With no representation in the Assembly for the BJP, the governor seems to have stepped into the shoes.
“The Raj Bhavan seems to be the functional area of the BJP in Kerala. The statements of the LDF make sense since creating tensions for the government has become a hobby of the governor,” Paul said.
Though the LDF government has made attempts to soften the relationship with the office of the governor, there seems to be no reciprocation from the Raj Bhavan.
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