New Delhi: Thirteen Bills passed by the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly are pending before the state’s governor R.N. Ravi, contradicting his assertion last month that no Bills were pending his assent.
The state government’s law department confirmed the number of pending Bills on June 15 in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by the Hindu.
Two of these pending Bills date from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)’s tenure, which expired in 2021 following elections to the state legislature.
These Bills are the Tamil Nadu Fisheries University (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Both sought to shift the power of ‘inspection’ from the governor in his/her capacity as chancellor of these universities to the state government, the Hindu reported.
Another one of the legislature’s pending Bills, the Tamil Nadu Universities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was passed by the current Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led government in an effort to wrest power from the governor over the appointment of vice-chancellors to certain public universities in the state.
Ravi said in an interview to the Times of India in May that “there [was] no bill pending before the Raj Bhavan or the governor”.
But Thangam Thennarasu, DMK MLA and minister in the Tamil Nadu government, responded to Ravi’s comments, saying that “in so far as the administration is concerned, [Ravi] has kept them pending without granting assent. That is it.”
“He cannot seek to move past it through a mere ‘word play’,” Thennarasu added according to the Hindu.
Raj Bhavan in Chennai, which is the Tamil Nadu governor’s official residence. Photo: tnrajbhavan.gov.in
Governors are the constitutional and largely ceremonial heads of Indian states, and are appointed by the president on the prime minister’s advice.
Despite their ceremonial role, governors are vested with some important powers, including the ability to withhold assent to Bills passed by legislative assemblies and decide who will form the government in the event of a political crisis.
They are also known to overstep their mandate and act as functionaries of the Union government in states where opposition parties hold power. Some governors have publicly criticised state governments while others have refused to give assent to Bills, and some observers have termed the office of the governor a “fifth wheel” or a “stormtrooper” of the Union government.
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Ravi and the Tamil Nadu government – which is led by the DMK, an opponent of the BJP, the ruling party at the Union level – have had their share of tussles since the former took office in September 2021.
In November 2022, the ruling coalition in the state wrote to President Droupadi Murmu seeking Ravi’s removal as governor over comments he made as well as his delay in giving assent to Bills.
In January this year, Ravi walked out of the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly after Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin objected to a speech Ravi delivered that deviated considerably from gubernatorial norms.
The assembly later passed a resolution condemning his conduct, following which Ravi gave his assent to a Bill that was pending before him for 131 days.