In a first-of-its kind matter being watched keenly in the political circles, the Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the Narendra Modi government after Uttarakhand governor Aziz Qureshi requested it to examine the procedure for his removal and also the governmment’s power to push him to quit the constitutional post.
A bench led by Chief Justice RM Lodha sought response from the Centre in five weeks on the plea that objected to Home Secretary’s phone call to Qureshi to resign. It also referred the matter to a five-judge Constitution Bench since the issue involved interpretation of Articles 156 of the Constitution that pertains to manner of removal of Governors.
Seven Governors, appointed during the previous UPA government led by Manmohan Singh, were nudged to quit while two were sacked after the newly elected government’s message to quit delivered through the home secretary. Those who quit include B V Wanchoo of Goa, B L Joshi of UP, M K Narayanan of West Bengal and Shekhar Dutt of Chhattisgarh. The President had withdrawn pleasure and sacked Kamala Beniwal after her transfer from Gujarat to Mizoram.
But Aziz decided to take on the Modi government, questioning the home secretary’s “audacity” in calling him up and asking him to put in his papers.
A battery of lawyers, comprising two former Law Ministers of UPA regime--Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid-- and two former Additional Solicitor Generals, however pleaded that Constitution provision of Article 156 has not been followed and Home Secretary threatening the Governor is unconstitutional.
They wondered how a Constitutional office of a Governor can be undermined by a secretary-level officer in this manner.
Under Article 156 of the Indian Constitution, a governor holds his office at the pleasure of the President. Consequently, only the president may ask a governor to step down.
The petition quoted Articles 155 and 156(1) of the Constitution, to state that the governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the President and hence he would hold office for five years if he continued to enjoy the confidence of the President. Qureshi also termed the home secretary’s telephone call as “rank insubordination” and “audacious.”