The Supreme Court raised pertinent questions on the role of the governor while hearing the events that unfolded during the 2022 Maharashtra political crisis, which saw a revolt in the Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud wondered if a difference in opinion among MLAs within a party could be sufficient ground for a governor to call for a floor test. "It will be a sad spectacle for democracy", the bench said.
The court's observations are crucial, and while examining the issue from a neutral perspective, it has tried to dwell deep into the conscience of the executive head of the state while arriving at his decision. Significantly, the court held that the letter by the Opposition leader does not matter in the case because "he will always keep writing that the government has lost the majority and MLAs are not happy". Furthermore, the court held even the threat to their security is also not relevant in this case and questioned whether the resolution of 34 MLAs citing widespread discontent among the party cadres and legislators is sufficient ground to call for a trust vote.
The court stated that the governor should have engaged himself in understanding why the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs suddenly wanted to go out of an alliance after a 3-year "happy marriage".
The court has struck at the very heart of an issue which has been plaguing legislature for a very long time. Democracy sometimes is vitiated because governors act partisan in any political tug of war, misusing constitutional authority to suit the interest of parties, thereby compromising on the federal edifice of the Constitution.
The era of governors sticking to constitutional mandates and doing due diligence could be a thing of the past. And Governors, by virtue of being political appointees, are complicit in tilting towards the Centre's interests, which has become a common phenomenon.
Goa, too, has witnessed governors playing a proactive role on numerous occasions. In 2005, the then chief minister Manohar Parrikar's government was sacked by governor C Jamir despite winning the vote of confidence on the floor of the House. In 2017, governor Mridula Sinha allowed the BJP to go ahead with government formation despite not emerging as the single largest party.
Conversely, there are umpteen examples of governors not toeing the line of the ruling party and finding themselves constantly in conflict. Recently, Tamil Nadu governor RN Ravi while delivering his speech in the assembly, deviated from the convention and did not read out an approved text. In Kerala, the governor has often engaged in a crossfire with the chief minister.
The role of governors will continue to be contentious because of political undercurrents. The Supreme Court has questioned the governor's failure to seek answers on the sudden 'break-up' overlooking the reasoning put forth by the Shinde group. The question is whether the judiciary can intervene and restore the sanctity of the topmost constitutional functionary that has been penetrated with politics.