Who can summon a session of the Assembly?
- “The Governor shall from time to time summon the House or each House of the Legislature of the State
to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit…” says Article 174 of the Constitution.
- The provision also puts on the Governor the responsibility of ensuring that the House is summoned at least once every six months.
- Although it is the Governor’s prerogative to summon the House, according to Article 163, the Governor is required to act on the “aid and advice” of the Cabinet.
Can the Governor refuse the aid and advice of the Cabinet?
- When the Chief Minister appears to have lost the majority and the legislative members of the House propose a no-confidence motion against the Chief Minister, then the Governor can decide on his or her own on summoning the House. But the actions of the Governor, when using his discretionary powers can be challenged in court.
How have the courts ruled?
- A number of rulings by the Supreme Court has settled the position that the Governor cannot refuse the request of a Cabinet that enjoys majority in the House unless it is patently unconstitutional.
- The latest in the line of rulings is the landmark 2016 Constitution Bench ruling in which the Supreme Court looked into the constitutional crisis in Arunachal Pradesh after the Governor had imposed President’s Rule in the state.
- “In ordinary circumstances during the period when the Chief Minister and his council of ministers enjoy the confidence of the majority of the House, the power vested with the Governor under Article 174 to summon, prorogue and dissolve the house(s) must be exercised in consonance with the aid and advice of the chief minister and his council of ministers.
- In the above situation, he is precluded [from taking] an individual call on the issue at his own will, or in his own discretion,” the verdict said.
- The court read the power to summon the House as a “function” of the Governor and not a “power” he enjoys.
- The Sarkaria Commission of 1983, which reviewed the arrangements between the Centre and the states, had said that “so long as the Council of Ministers enjoys the confidence of the Assembly, its advice in these matters, unless patently unconstitutional must be deemed as binding on the Governor.
- It is only where such advice, if acted upon, would lead to an infringement of a constitutional provision, or where the Council of Ministers has ceased to enjoy the confidence of the Assembly, that the question arises whether the Governor may act in the exercise of his discretion”.
What happens if the Kerala government insists on holding the special session?
- Since the Governor’s powers are limited with regard to summoning the House, there can be no legal
- ground to deny a request for summoning the session.