Democracy has been seriously abused in Goa. How else should one describe the Goa Governor’s dismissal of the Parrikar ministry and his indecent haste in swearing in a Congress ministry? This action, as the Supreme Court said almost 30 years back, is reminiscent of the happenings in the age of the Stuarts of England in the 16th century.
No doubt, the Speaker’s action in expelling independent MLA Rodrigues was equally indefensible, as he had not been disqualified as a member of the assembly. But that does not justify the action of the governor, which suggests that he had decided beforehand to dismiss the Parrikar ministry. If the Governor was of the view that the Speaker had denied the right of voting to the legislators for whatever reason, he could have asked the Chief Minister to have a fresh vote in the legislature. Parrikar legally would have had to comply with this direction.
The Governor cannot plead that he could not risk asking the Chief Minister to seek a fresh vote of confidence, on the pretext that the Speaker could have adjourned the Assembly to defeat the vote being taken. This fear is unfounded.
Decades back, the Supreme Court while interpreting Article 174(2) of the Constitution had held that the Governor had the power to prorogue the House, even if it is in session and further that the House can be re-summoned thereafter to transact the business directed by the governor (in this case) to seek a vote of confidence.
And if Parrikar had refused to do so, the Governor could legally have dismissed Parrikar and either recommend President’s rule under Article 356 or could swear in Rane ministry but with a caveat to him to prove his majority within a week.
The Governor, however, did not adopt this constitutional method. He tried to exercise royal power a la Henry VIII, which is extant since the middle ages in England. In fact, a king of England was even hanged for defying Magna Carta principles. Notwithstanding this history, the Governor invoked Article 174, as if to suggest that the Chief Minister is in the personal service of the Governor.
Surely, SC Jamir, a former Chief Minister, must know our Constitution envisages a Parliamentary system of government both at the Centre and in the states and that neither the President nor the Governor can exercise any power at his pleasure. A Governor’s power is restrained by the Constitution, and he is not meant to act like Henry VIII. On acts of presumptuous arrogance, the Supreme Court gave a firm warning years back when it warned, “No one is an imporium in our imperia in our Constitutional order. Unchecked power is alien to our system”.
To make matters worse, the Governor swore in the ”expelled” Rodrigues as a Minister. It appears that the Chief Minister has derived some perverse pleasure from this unseemly episode of toppling the Government. The sad reality is that the Constitution of India was framed by gentlemen, to be implemented by gentlemen. But when rulers of a different kind occupy such constitutional positions, aberrations bringing disrepute to the high office are bound to take place.
This event threatens to plunge the country into bitter political fights. Shouldn’t the Congress and the BJP show some respect to the norms of democratic functioning? It is obvious that with MLAs changing loyalties, the chances of either of the party being allowed to form a stable government seem next to impossible.
The Rane ministry is already threatened with a split. The wisdom of both parties lies in their joint request to the Governor to dissolve the Legislature and order fresh elections. It should also be agreed that the Rane government resign immediately, with no caretaker government in the interim. During this interim, Governor”s rule should apply, without Jamir at the helm, who has forfeited the right to act as a neutral referee. He is rightly accused of having functioned as a stooge of the Congress to score a penalty kick in the goal of the BJP. A new Governor must be appointed for Goa under whom fresh elections take place. Such a course may stem the tide for bitter-street fighting and restore the system to its normal functioning. After all, it is for the people to elect their representatives.
The sanctity of the Constitution is at stake, and it is for political parties to act decisively rather than adopt an amoral position.
Questions of convention, probity and political behaviour cannot be left to the wooden and slow approach of courts. The present situation can only heighten political friction and bitterness.
The two main political parties should rise above their petty political postures and think of the institutions at stake.
The criteria for selection of Governors are a matter of concern. At present, Governors owe their appointment to the sole pleasure of the Centre and can therefore afford to behave in a partisan manner. Gubernatorial appointments should be made by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and the leaders of the Opposition of both Houses. The power of removal should also be vested in the same Committee, to be exercised by a unanimous vote.