Governor may Give his Assent or Return the Bill


The issue whether the Governor of a State can withhold a bill passed by the legislature without acting upon it is a serious matter being debated in governmental bodies, judiciary, and the public sphere, with no consensus in sight.

Therefore the clash between the State Government and the Office of the Governor continues in some States in India.

Governor must act as per Council’s advice

The Governor, as per Article 163(1) of the constitution, can act or exercise his powers n only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, except in situations where the constitution directly or indirectly allows his exercise of discretion independently.

All executive action of the government of a State is expressed to be taken in the name of the Governor, except a few functions which he is required to exercise in his discretion. He has to exercise his powers with the aid and advice of the council of ministers with the Chief Minister at its head.

Exercise of discretion cannot be questioned

But the Article 163(2 of the Constitution states that if any question regarding his exercise of discretion arises, then the Governor’s decision would be final and his exercise of discretion cannot be challenged in a caught of law.

Governor can give assent to or return the bill

When the Governor is presented with a bill passed by the legislature, the Article 200 of the Constitution contemplates one of three courses being adopted by the Governor when a bill is presented to him after it is passed by the House or Houses of Legislature: (1) to give his assent, or (2) to withhold assent, or (3) to reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President.

The first proviso says that as soon as the Bill is presented to him, he may return the Bill to the Legislature (if it is not a Money Bill) together with a message requesting the Legislature to reconsider the Bill. He can also suggest the desirability of introducing such amendments or changes as he thinks appropriate. If, on such reconsideration, the Bill is passed again, with or without amendments, and is presented to the Governor for assent, he must accord his assent.

If the bill is returned with a message requesting the legislature to reconsider the bill the house can take 6 months to reconsider the bill. If the house, in turn, returns as it is, the Governor has no choice but to give assent to the bill.

In Purshothaman Nambuthiri v. State of Kerala (AIR 1962 SC 694), a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court held that there is no time limit for granting the assent by the Governor.

Governor can refer the bill to president

If the Governor finds that the bill takes away the power of the High Court in any manner the Governor has the discretion to refer the bill to the President under Article 201 of the Constitution.

A bill passed by the House or Houses of the State Legislature and reserved by the Governor for the consideration of the President and assented to by the latter, will thus become a law.

Constitution / case law does not specify a time limit

However, the Constitution does not prescribe any specific time limit for the Governor to give assent or returns the bill.

The Sarkaria Commission of Centre State relations in its report says that the Governor thinks it necessary to act and adopt, in the exercise of his discretion, any other course open to him under Article 200, he should do so within a period not exceeding one month from the date on which the Bill is presented to him.

Therefore, if the Governor keeps the bill idle for a long time, there emerges an imbroglio about which the Constitution is silent. No case law states any other precise way to address the issue.

However, in a case State of Telangana v Secretary to the Governor, Telangana  in regard to the delay in giving assent to the bill by the Governor, the Supreme court held that the expression ‘as soon as possible’ has significant constitutional content and must be borne in mind by constitutional authorities.

Further reading

  1. The Constitution of India
  2. Purshothaman Nambuthiri v. State of Kerala (AIR 1962 SC 694)
  3. A consultation paper on the institution of the Governor. Prepared for the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, 2000
  4. State of Telangana v Secretary to the Governor, Telangana