India has a parliamentary form of government. Both at the state and union levels it has institutions and processes in place like any other parliamentary system. At the state level, there is a Governor in whom the executive power of the State is vested by the Constitution. But the Governor acts as a nominal head, and the real executive powers are exercised by the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister.
The Governor of a State is appointed by the President of India. In order to become a Governor, a person must have the following qualifications.
If a person is a member of either House of the Parliament or the Legislature of a State, or a member of the Council of Ministers at the national or the state level and is appointed as Governor, he or she resigns that post. The Governor is appointed for a term of five years but normally holds office during the pleasure of the President.
The pleasure of the President means that the Governor may be removed by the President even before the expiry of term. He or She may also resign earlier. However, in reality, while appointing or removing the Governor, the President goes by the advice of the Prime Minister.
With every job there are powers attached. The powers of the Governor are conferred by the Constitution to enable him or her to perform functions effectively as a Head of the State. The powers of the Governor can be categorised as:
1. Executive Powers
The Constitution of India vests the entire executive powers of the State in the Governor who performs these functions according to the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister as its head. He or She appoints the Chief Minister and other members of the Council of Ministers.
He or She also appoints persons on important posts such as the Chairpersons and Members of the State Public Service Commission, State Election Commission, State Finance Commission and the Advocate General, Judges of the courts, other than the High Court. He or She is consulted when the Judges of the State High Court are appointed by the President.
But in practice the Governor’s powers are only formal. He appoints only that person as Chief Minister who is the Leader of the majority in the Legislative Assembly. He or She appoints Members of the Council of Ministers only on the advice of the Chief Minister. All other appointments are made and executive functions are performed by him or her exactly as per the advice of Council of Ministers.
2. Legislative Powers
The Governor is an inseparable part of the State Legislature and as such he or she has been given certain legislative powers. He or She has the right to summon and prorogue the State Legislature and can dissolve the State Legislative Assembly. He or She addresses the State Legislative Assembly or the joint sessions of the two houses of the legislature.
He or She may nominate one person of Anglo-Indian Community as a member of Legislative Assembly in case the community is not represented. He or She also nominates one-sixth of the members to the Legislative Council, if the State has a bicameral legislature.
In real practice the Governor does all this on the recommendations of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister. A bill passed by the State Legislature becomes a law or Act only when the Governor gives assent to it.
3. Financial Powers
Every year the budget is presented by the government in the Legislature for its approval. The budget (Annual Financial Statement) of the State is prepared and presented by the State Finance Minister before the State Legislature, on behalf of the Governor. Moreover, no money bill can be introduced in the State Legislature without the recommendations of the Governor. He or She also has control over the State Contingency Fund.
4. Discretionary Powers
The Governor acts on the advice of the State Council of Ministers. This means that in reality, the Governor has no powers. But according to the Constitution, under special circumstances, he or she may act without the advice of the Council of Ministers. Such powers, which are exercised by the Governor on his own, are called discretionary powers.
Firstly, if no political party or coalition of parties wins a clear majority in the Legislative Assembly, he or she can exercise discretion in inviting a person to be the Chief Minister. Secondly, the Governor acts as a link between the Centre and the State. He or She can reserve any bill passed by the State Legislature for the consideration of the President of India.
Thirdly, if he or she thinks that the government of the State is not functioning according to the Constitution, he or she can report to the President. In that case under Article 356, the President’s Rule is imposed, the State Council of Ministers is removed and the State Legislature is dissolved or put under suspension. During such emergency, the Governor rules on behalf of the President.
The State executive consists of the Governor, the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers. Normally, the Governor exercises all powers on the advice of the Council of Ministers. When the Chief Minister is sworn in, the Governor simply performs a formal duty. He or She invites the leader of the majority in the State Legislative Assembly to be sworn in as the Chief Minister.
The members of the Council of Ministers are also appointed by the Governor on the recommendations of the Chief Minister. The majority can consist of members of Legislative Assembly belonging to one party or a group of parties and independents. However, when there is no clear majority in the House electing one candidate as its leader, the Governor can exercise discretionary power.
Similarly, although theoretically the Ministers hold their offices during the pleasure of the Governor, in practice the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers remain in office till they enjoy the support of the majority in the Legislative Assembly. The Governor can dismiss them only when the President’s Rule is imposed.
The Chief Minister is required to communicate to the Governor all the decisions of the Council of Ministers. He or She may call for necessary information related to the state administration. If a Minister individually takes a decision, the Governor may ask the Chief Minister to place such a matter for consideration of the Council of Ministers.
It is true that the Governor is a nominal head and the real powers are exercised by the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister. But it will not be correct to say that the Governor is just a constitutional or ceremonial head. He or She can exercise powers effectively under certain circumstances, especially when there is political instability in the State.
Since he or she is a link between the Centre and the State, he or she becomes very effective, if the central government sends directions to the State government. The discretionary powers also make the Governor to act as a real executive in particular circumstances.