Kerala LDF government on a Constitutional collision course with Governor Arif Mohammed Khan

Experts opine that a political face-off might not be strategic for the left government especially with an election around the corner
Kerala LDF government on a Constitutional collision course with Governor Arif Mohammed Khan

Soon after Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan denied permission for a special assembly session, the government, as well as the opposition, have turned against him. Following a high-level cabinet meeting, the Kerala government wrote a letter to the Governor requesting permission for a special assembly session to pass a resolution against the three contentious farm laws passed by the BJP-led Centre. However, in a historic decision, the Governor denied permission questioning the need for such a session.

In a letter to Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the power to summon a legislative assembly session falls outside the powers of the Governor, and that he couldn’t regulate the moving of resolutions and conducting of discussions within the assembly. “It is regrettable that a recommendation coming from an elected government, enjoying a clear majority in the legislative assembly for discussing an emergent issue of national importance, has not been acceded by the Hon’ble Governor, especially when the power to summon a session of the assembly falls outside the discretionary power of the governor,” Vijayan wrote.

Leaders of LDF and UDF had protested Arif Khan’s decision. LDF convenor and CPM state secretary A Vijayaraghavan said that the Governor had started a wrong tradition. “Even the Supreme Court had noted that the Governor must function according to the Constitution in matters concerning the latter. The government has the right to call such a session, and the Governor must follow the protocol. Moreover, the government does not need to inform the Governor of the activities of the assembly,” he said.

The government had called the meeting under the relevant sections of the Indian Constitution, and any denial of that seems to be out of the norm. According to the Sarkaria Commission report as long as the council of ministers enjoys the confidence of the legislative assembly, and the request for summoning a session of the assembly is constitutional then it is binding on the Governor. The ruling LDF, as well as the UDF, had equal support for the special assembly, and in a rare example, they have jointly opposed the three farm bills. The only odd one out in the entire scenario was the lone BJP member O Rajagopal, whose decision is yet unknown.

Many believe that the Governor’s decision is inherently motivated since he is a member of the BJP. They have criticised the Governor’s decision because similar sessions were held in Punjab and Delhi to pass resolutions against the three farm bills. However, Kerala Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar has a slight difference in that opinion. “Governor Arif Mohammed Khan is a seasoned politician and a gentleman. If he had come to make a decision as such as this, then it is obvious that he is under a lot of external pressure,” he tells media.

However, regardless of the politics of the situation, the government is trying to keep away from it and go the Constitutional route. An open conflict with the Governor will place the government in a tough spot, especially with an election next year. Political experts think that since they have Constitutional remedies at their disposal, it is better for the CPM government to use them rather than attack the Governor on political grounds. Since it is a decision of the cabinet, they have decided to convene again tomorrow to examine their next course of action.

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