‘Worst displays of gubernatorial excesses’: Editorials pan TN governor’s ‘unconstitutional’ behaviour

At least six editorials in leading English papers struck the same note.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Yet again Tamil Nadu governor RN Ravi is butting heads with the DMK governments in the state, and newspapers across India had plenty to say.

In the latest chapter on June 29, Ravi “dismissed” DMK minister V Senthil Balaji from the council of ministers after his arrest by the ED in a cash-for-jobs scam. Chief minister MK Stalin had retained him as minister regardless – but Ravi dismissed him without consulting the CM. In a press release, he claimed Balaji had been “influencing the investigation and abusing the due process of law and justice”.

Hours later, Ravi kept Balaji’s dismissal in “abeyance”, saying he had been “advised” by union home minister Amit Shah to “seek the opinion of the Attorney General also”.

Stalin said Ravi’s “dismissal” is unconstitutional, that he has “no power to dismiss my minister”.

Editorials echoed this line.

The Hindu’s editorial today called it a “constitutional misadventure”, saying Ravi “appears to be on a mission to demonstrate his tenuous grasp of the Constitution”.

“One would have thought that a governor expected to abide by constitutional norms would have obtained appropriate legal opinion prior to his drastic action. That Mr Ravi had to be advised to seek ex post facto legal opinion reflects poorly on his decision-making prowess,” it said.

The Times of India, in a July 1 editorial headlined “Chennai’s Super King”, also picked apart Ravi’s “extraordinary gubernatorial excesses”.

“Ravi was wrong to unilaterally dismiss the minister,” it said. “...Ravi’s conduct in this matter and a tendency to sit on bills has left a lot to be desired. It undermines the integrity of the constitutional office that’s an important link between GOI and states. GOI should talk to him.”

Indian Express’s editorial today said the centre should “think of a new job” for Ravi because he “has taken a step too far”. 

“...Governor Ravi stands out in the dismal list of governors who have courted controversy for displaying a grave misunderstanding of their constitutional position and role. Even before the attempted dismissal of the minister, Governor Ravi had made news for the wrong reasons in Tamil Nadu,” it said, warning that his “tone-deafness has threatened to stoke spectres buried long ago”.

Over to the New Indian Express, which flamboyantly described Ravi as an “audacious newsmaker” who is “barely bogged down by denunciation”, and whose order to unilaterally dismiss a minister has “raised a serious question mark on his interpretation of the Constitution of India”.

“The drama has inevitably brought out two narratives. One, the continuation of a tainted minister will lead to the breakdown of the constitutional machinery. The other is, from where is a governor, who is supposed to act as per the aid and advice of the council of ministers, getting the power to sack a minister?” the editorial said today.

Hindustan Times carried an editorial today too, headlined “Sending the wrong signal”. While emphasising that investigations into powerful figures must be “thorough, impartial and swift”, the newspaper said governors should not be “taking unto themselves more powers than envisaged by the Constitution”.

Face-offs between governors and non-BJP governments have taken place in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Punjab, described by HT as “detrimental for India’s fraying federal fabric”. The editorial also quoted BR Ambedkar as telling the Constituent Assembly in June 1949 that the governor under the constitution has “no functions which he can discharge by himself – no functions at all”.

Finally, Deccan Chronicle went a step further and said Ravi’s behaviour was “one of the worst displays of gubernatorial excesses in Independent India”. It suggested that the union government “put in place a mechanism to screen gubernatorial candidates on the basis of their knowledge of the Constitution before announcing their appointment”.

Earlier this year, a former governor had made startling revelations about the Modi government on grave issues of security, federalism and corruption. This was Satya Pal Malik, former governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Read all about it here.

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