Punjab governor reserves 3 Bills for President’s consideration
Bills, which have been at the centre of the latest row between governor Banwarilal Purohit and the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP govt in Punjab are the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023, Punjab Universities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023.
Governor Banwarilal Purohit on Wednesday reserved three Bills passed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in June this year for the consideration of President Droupadi Murmu.
The controversial Bills, which have been at the centre of the latest row between Purohit and the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab, include the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Punjab Universities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and The Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023.
The first aims at providing free-to-air telecast of the Gurbani from Golden Temple in Amritsar by amending the British-era Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, and ensuring that it is not commercialised in any manner.
The Punjab Universities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023, seeks to replace the governor with the chief minister as chancellor of 11 state-run universities. The AAP government brought the Bill following a standoff with the governor over the procedure to appoint vice-chancellors of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS) and Punjab Agricultural University (PAU).
The Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023, seeks to do away with the Supreme Court-mandated procedure in the selection of state police chiefs.
The governor has reserved these three Bills for the consideration of the President of India as per Article 200 of the Constitution, a Raj Bhavan spokesperson said.
According to Article 200, “When a Bill has been passed by the legislative assembly of a state or, in the case of a state having a legislative council, has been passed by both Houses of the legislature of the state, it shall be presented to the governor and the governor shall declare either that he assents to the Bill or that he withholds assent therefrom or that he reserves the Bill for the consideration of the President.”
Last week, the governor had granted assent to the Punjab Affiliated Colleges (Security of Service) Amendment Bill, 2023. It is aimed at streamlining the functioning of the Punjab Educational Tribunal for government-aided private colleges.
All four Bills were cleared by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha during the two-day special session held on June 19 and 20 and had been pending with the governor since then. Purohit had called the June 19-20 session, which was convened after adjournment of the budget session in March sine-die instead of prorogation, as “patently illegal”, casting doubt on the legality of the Bills passed during the sitting of the House.
The governor’s decision on the Bills came days after the Supreme Court declared the June 19-20 session as constitutionally valid and asked him to take decisions on four Bills passed during the sitting and pending with him.
The apex court, in its November 10 judgment, ruled that governors cannot be at liberty to keep Bills indefinitely. The state government moved the court accusing the governor of sitting over Bills. The court did not spare the state government either, saying its actions of keeping the assembly in suspended animation amounted to defeating the Constitution. It, however, upheld the Speaker’s supremacy in conducting the business of the House or adjourning its sessions.
After the Supreme Court’s order, Mann and Purohit had on November 24 exchanged letters over the pending Bills. Mann wrote to Purohit requesting him to grant assent to Bills “forthwith” in keeping with the “constitutional obligation” and the spirit of democracy as elucidated in the order of the Supreme Court. The governor had also responded promptly, writing to Mann that the Bills were under his “active consideration” and appropriate decision according to the law would be taken expeditiously in keeping with the apex court’s November 10 judgment. Another Bill, the State Vigilance Commission (Repeal) Bill, 2022, which was passed by the state assembly in September 2022, is still awaiting the governor’s assent.