Why did the Constituent Assembly replace the original plan to have elected governors in favor of appointment by the President? Also, bring out the arguments that are raised against the current form of appointment of Governors.
The Governor is the Chief Executive Head of a state in India. There was a unanimous understanding in the Constituent Assembly that Governors will be agents of the Central government, almost like the Governors appointed during the British rule. However, the Assembly was initially divided on the method of election of the Governor and his/her role in the state.
Eventually, the Assembly concluded that a directly elected Governor would challenge the authority of the Chief Minister. They did not want alternate centers of power at the state level. Further, they adhered to the Parliamentary Executive system, wherein the heads of the state and government were to be elected indirectly and directly respectively. Also, since the Governor plays a unique role in the balancing the scheme of Indian federal system, thus, it was agreed that the Governor would be appointed and removed by the President, who shall hold office during the ‘pleasure of the President’.
The arguments that are raised against the current form of appointment of Governors include:
Instability: The appointment and removal of the Governors are deemed to be abrupt as they are frequently changed when there is a change in the government at the Centre. In B.P. Singhal Vs. Union of India (2010), the SC stated that Governors should not be removed or transferred arbitrarily.
Nepotism: The ruling parties have often used the office of the Governor to reward loyalists and thus it has become retirement home for politicians.
Misuse of Constitutional provisions: There have been instances when the Governors have arbitrarily imposed Article 356 in the states upon the directives of the Central government. e.g. imposition of Article 356 in Uttarakhand in 2016, Jammu and Kashmir in 2018, etc.
Seen as representatives of the center: The Governors are deemed as ‘agents of the Centre’ by the state governments who feel that they serve the interests of the Centre as opposed to states’ interests.
Misuse of discretionary power: The Governor’s discretionary power under Article 163 has been misused despite it being a limited power. In 2016, the SC struck down the unilateral actions of the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh in summoning an Assembly session and sending messages to the Assembly as unconstitutional.
Thus, the arguments against the current form of appointment are centered on the issue of arbitrary decision-making and exclusion of the state Executive in this regard. In this context, the Venkatachalliah and Punchhi Commissions have argued for the security of tenure of the Governors and localizing of Emergency provisions under Articles 355 and 356 of the Constitution.
Similarly, the Sarkaria Commission opined that the Governors should be allowed to complete their tenure of five years except for extremely compelling reasons. Governorships should be given to eminent persons with impeccable credentials rather than treating it as a post-retirement job for politicians. The Governor is the head of the state. Therefore, it is pertinent to maintain the integrity of his/her office by addressing the concerns related to the current form of appointment of governors.