The Hindu Editorial Vocabulary– Mar 3, 2022; Day 247
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Difficult Word/ PhraseContextual Sense
Confrontation A hostile disagreement face-to-face
Onus ​the responsibility for something
Avert Prevent the occurrence of
Miffed ​slightly angry or upset
Partisan Devoted to a cause
Constrained Lacking spontaneity
Discretionary decided by officials and not fixed by rules
On tenterhooks waiting nervously for something to happen
Clemency kind treatment of somebody when they are being punished
Lynchpin a person or thing that is the most important part of an organization, a plan, etc., because everything else depends on them or it
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Lines and roles: On Governors

The time may have come for clarifying the role and functions of Governors

Signs of a confrontation (A hostile disagreement face-to-face) between Raj Bhavan and the elected government in a State are not infrequent in the country. The onus (​the responsibility for something) often appears to be on the Chief Ministers to avert (Prevent the occurrence of) a constitutional crisis, as evidenced by Pinarayi Vijayan trying to buy peace with a miffed (​slightly angry or upset) Governor, Arif Mohammed Khan, rather than pursue a confrontational course, over several issues in recent times. One way of seeing these developments is to attribute them to the appointment of those who have been politically active in the recent past as Governors and the partisan (Devoted to a cause) role they play as agents of the Centre. However, the problems may have to do with the way they understand their own powers. Constrained (Lacking spontaneity) by the ‘aid and advice’ clause in their routine functioning, some Governors seem to be using the discretionary (decided by officials and not fixed by rules) space available to them to keep regimes on tenterhooks (waiting nervously for something to happen). A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court laid down in 1974 that the President and Governor shall “exercise their formal constitutional powers only upon and in accordance with the advice of their Ministers save in a few well-known exceptional situations” — “situations” also illustratively listed. Yet, there is the extraordinary situation of some Governors not acting upon requests to grant clemency (kind treatment of somebody when they are being punished) or assent to Bills; and, in one instance in Tamil Nadu, a reluctance to reserve for the President’s consideration a Bill that expressly requires Presidential assent because of obvious conflict with a central law.


Much of the conflict arises due to the Constitution itself. It fixes no time-frame for the Governors to act, and contains, in Article 163, an unusual power to choose what is in their discretion and what is not, with the courts being barred from inquiring into whether any advice and, if so, what advice was given. The Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State relations recommended no change in this scheme, but it is time it is revisited. While as the ‘lynchpin’ (a person or thing that is the most important part of an organization, a plan, etc., because everything else depends on them or it) of the constitutional apparatus, Governors indeed have a duty to defend the Constitution and encourage or caution the elected regime, the impression that Governors are not obliged to heed Cabinet advice persists in some areas. At a time when regional political forces are actively seeking to be heard by the Centre, it may be time that the provisions relating to the Governor’s role are amended. Identifying areas of discretion, fixing a time-frame for them to act, and making it explicit that they are obliged to go by Cabinet advice on dealing with Bills can be considered. Regarding Bills, it is clear that the Constituent Assembly passed the provision for Governors to return Bills for reconsideration only on the express assurance that they have no discretion at all. In addition, as suggested by the M.M. Punchhi Commission, ending the practice of burdening Governors with the office of Chancellor in universities should also be considered.

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