Read Kerala Governor Arif Khan’s poetic reply to Pinarayi over need for special assembly session

In the full letter given below, the Governor says that while they have different duties, they have the same goal of serving the country
Arif Mohammed Khan
Arif Mohammed KhanFacebook

While Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s criticism of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had hit media, the true essence of the letter has been lost in the frenzy. The Governor, in a beautifully crafted letter, addresses his concerns with the CM’s letter requesting permission for a special assembly session.

He says that he was only asking the CM to explain the “emergency” and “serious issues” vaguely used in the letter. This was especially concerning to Arif Khan since the letter for the one-hour session was received on the same day that he had signed a prior request for a session on January 8, 2020. He added that his queries weren’t concerning the Constitutional issues and that he agreed with most points that Pinarayi wrote in his letter. However, he said that Pinarayi’s points “do not respond to the basic question that is related to summoning the Assembly on short notice or emergently”.

He added that he had never disagreed with or denied the government anything, despite complicated circumstances. He wrote that he had signed the controversial Kerala Police Act ordinance as well as a bill for the reorganisation and delimitation of local body constituencies.

In his letter, Arif Khan, quoting the Gita, says, “One’s own duty though defective, is superior to another's duty well-performed. Death is better while engaged in one's own duty; another's duty is fraught with fear.” He was explaining that while their duties are different — Pinarayi’s job is to run the government and Arif Khan’s job is to see that the business of the government is run in accordance with the rule of the land — their goal is the same: that is to serve their motherland.

Here is the full letter:

D.O. No. GS-193/2020

December 23, 2020

Thanks for your letter dated 22.12.2020.

In your letter you have made several assertions about subjects which I had never raised in my queries regarding your proposal to summon an emergent session of the Assembly on 23.12.20. But these assertions lack connectivity with the background contained in the relevant File. I feel it would have been appropriate had your letter come to me as part of the file concerned.

I agree that as far as the question of summoning Assembly under rule 3(2) of Rules of procedure and conduct of business in the Kerala Legislative Assembly is concerned, Governor is bound by the decision of the Cabinet and in last more than one year I have always acted accordingly in giving my approval to summon the sessions of the Assembly.

But when a recommendation is made to summon a Session at short notice or emergently and in the present case at a notice of about 24 hours, that means departure from the rule requiring 15 days’ notice and invoking the proviso to rule 3, which is an exception to the rule, then it becomes duty of the gubernatorial office to ensure that departure from rule does not result in departure from the spirit of the rules of conduct of business.

If I may put the record straight, the cabinet had decided on 17.12.2020, that a session of the Assembly be held from 8th January 2021. The file reached my office on 18.12.2020 at 6.30 pm. December 19 and 20 being holidays, the file was put up before me on 21.12.2020 in the forenoon and I gave my approval immediately to the notification to summon the Assembly on 08.01.2021. After approval, the file was returned to your office on the same day in the forenoon itself.

In the afternoon of 21.12.2020, I received another note from your office saying that “the government have decided to withdraw the recommendation to convene the Session and further decided that a special Session of the Assembly be held on 23rd December 2020 to discuss some serious issues”, and sought my approval to summon the assembly accordingly. The note did not mention any reason for change of the decision except saying “to discuss some serious issues”.

Since rule 3 makes no mention of Special Session but the proviso provides for a session called at ‘short notice or emergently’, I presumed that you propose to summon an emergent session and wondered if something unforeseen or unexpected had happened between 17.12.2020 and 21.12.2020. Therefore, I requested you to spell out the reasons clearly to summon the Assembly urgently on 23.12.2020, particularly when your earlier recommendation to summon the Assembly from 08.01.2021 had already been approved by me.

In response to my query dated 21.12.2020, you said: “The State Cabinet has recommended to convene a special session of the Legislative Assembly on December 23, 2020 to discuss serious issues in the agricultural sector and the problems faced by the farming community which are matters of general public interest”.

Your response created an impression in my mind that you are referring to some unforeseen problems of agricultural sector and farming community of Kerala and therefore, I wrote back on 21.12.2020 saying that:

“When I requested you to spell out the reasons clearly which necessitated the summoning of the Assembly emergently, what I meant was to delineate the specific issues or circumstances that arose unexpectedly and not general description as to the sector to which these issues belong. In fact, if some serious issues in the agricultural sector have arisen and the farming community in Kerala is facing problems, then it would be desirable to know what immediate steps the government has taken to resolve these issues and help the farmers in our State”.

It was in response to this note that you opened up partially and admitted that the important issue that you referred to was “the ongoing protest by farmers” around Delhi and it became clear that you wanted this special Session to discuss a problem for which you have no jurisdiction to offer any solution.

In your response you did not address the question relating to the nature of emergency which necessitated to summon an emergent session of the Assembly. As far as the farmers’ protest is concerned, it is going on in Punjab, Haryana and some parts of UP since June 2020 and even the protest Dharna in Delhi is now almost a month old. What I wanted to know specifically was “what happened between 17 December, 2020, when you had decided to summon the session on 8 January 2021, the decision that was approved by me and 21 December 2020 when you decided to withdraw the earlier decision and sent a fresh proposal to summon emergent session of the Assembly on 23.12.2020”. However, you chose to ignore my queries and have not explained the factors that gave rise to an emergency like situation till date.

Legally speaking an emergency means, a sudden and serious event or an unforeseen change in circumstances that calls for immediate action to avert, control or remedy harm. Despite my repeated efforts you refused to share with me what happened in those three crucial days to make you cancel the scheduled Session of 8 January 2021 and to go for one-hour Session on 23.12.2020 as reported by media channels.

In my queries I have not raised any Constitutional issues rather on most points that you have mentioned, I am in agreement with you. But they do not respond to the basic question that is related to summoning the Assembly on short notice or emergently. My query was not about the regular Assembly Session where the summons under sub rule (1) shall ordinarily be issued fifteen days before the date so specified.

Recently you had asked me to approve an Ordinance amending the Kerala Police Act, I held back the file for more than three weeks as I was hoping that you will reconsider the issue. But finally, I signed it and the public outcry forced you to withdraw it within one week.

Similarly, last year you wanted me to approve an Ordinance for the reorganisation and delimitation of local body constituencies, which I refused and you were not happy about it. You went to the Assembly and got the Bill passed and despite the fact that one of your Ministers had expressed apprehension whether it will get nod from the Governor, I immediately signed it and it became a law. But again, you found it not possible to implement it and brought back the old law through an ordinance which I took no time to sign.

You will agree that as Chief Minister it is your constitutional duty to keep the Governor fully informed about the decisions of the government and it is my right to be consulted and to counsel the government. But somehow you give information when I raise questions; otherwise, you take shelter behind vague terms, like in the current case, “to discuss some serious issues”.

Even in the current matter, I did not refuse to accede to your request. I merely raised some questions and hoped that you would respond with full information to satisfy me that some unforeseen things have happened and show what you propose to do to deal with this unexpected situation. But instead of replying to my questions, you have chosen to bring in extraneous issues which I had not raised at any stage.

Yesterday, that is 22.12.2020, your office had called my OSD around 7 pm and informed him that you are sending a letter which should be opened by Governor himself. Your letter arrived in a sealed cover boldly marked “Confidential”. I opened the envelop myself. But what pained me was that as I was reading your letter, the contents of this confidential document were being read by an anchor on Kairali TV Channel.

During last one year I have expressed my admiration for you and other Ministers on several occasions, for the wonderful work that you have done to fight Covid-19 and other initiatives that you have taken. I am indeed thankful for your personal concern shown when I was struck by Covid and was hospitalised last month. I hold you in high esteem and would never like to be at loggerheads with you or my own government.

Last year, when I had come to address the Assembly, I had told you that “I know that you are a Communist and I am a believer who does not subscribe to the idea of organised religion, but I regard Scriptures as ‘Storehouse of Wisdom”. That day I had quoted a Shloka from Gita that says:

श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुणः परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात्।

स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेयः परधर्मो भयावहः।

Which means one's own duty though defective, is superior to another's duty well-performed. Death is better while engaged in one's own duty; another's duty is fraught with fear.

This was the time when controversy regarding CAA was at its peak. I had then requested you to let this verse define our relationship. Our duties are different, you are an active politician and your primary duty is to run the government for the good of people, whereas I as Governor have the duty to see that business of the Government is conducted in accordance with the law of the land. We may differ on certain issues but ultimately our goal is same; To serve our Motherland that is Bharata.

I hope despite some differences of opinion we shall always respect each other and never doubt the intentions of each other.

Best Wishes,

(Arif Mohammed Khan)

Shri Pinarayi Vijayan,

Chief Minister of Kerala,

Government Secretariat,

Thiruvananthapuram - 695001

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