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Supreme Court reprimands Kerala Governor for delaying Bills passed by State Legislature, says will lay down law if deadlock continues 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan for delaying the passage of eight bills, which were passed by the Kerala State legislature two years ago.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra noted that no reason has been given by the Governor to keep the bills pending, adding that the power of the Governor cannot be utilised to pause the law making exercise of the legislature.

The Bench made the observations while hearing a writ petition filed by the Kerala government against Governor Arif Mohd Khan for sitting over eight bills passed by the State Legislative Assembly. The Governor had later sent seven out of the eight bills to the President for her consideration.

The Bench initially turned down the request made by the State of Kerala to lay down guidelines on when a State Governor can send bills to the President, stating that the prayer for guidelines would not strictly arise in the frame of petitions as they stand now.

However, after hearing arguments by Senior Advocate and former Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Kerala government, the Apex Court said that if the deadlock continued in the State, it would do its Constitutional duty and lay down the law.

The Senior Counsel apprised the Court that after notice was issued on the writ petition, the Governor cleared one bill and referred the remaining seven to the President. He highlighted that some of these bills were passed way back in 2021.

Venugopal contended that even though the seven bills were not in conflict with any Central law, Governor Khan sent them to the President. Noting that a welfare bill was not passed by the Governor for two years, the Senior Advocate said it was affecting the governance of the state, which was adversarial. 

He said that out of the seven bills, three were earlier issued as Ordinances, for which the Governor had granted assent. If the Governor had no objection to the bills at the stage of Ordinance, how can he now refer them to the President, the Senior Advocate asked.

The Apex Court observed that Venugopal’s arguments had merit and since the matter was about accountability, it would take up the same.

Venugopal further said that eight new bills were sent to the Governor in August and September for his assent, including one money bill.

Representing the Governor, Attorney General R Venkataramani assured the Bench that the Governor will act on the money bill soon. 

The Bench recorded in its order the assurance given by the AG, stating that eight Bills have been sent in August and September to the Governor for his assent. The AG has stated that the Governor will take necessary actions.

Venugopal then sought guidelines on the Governor’s power to refer a Bill to the President on the grounds that a Governor cannot simply refer a bill for the President’s consideration. 

The Apex Court, however, pointed out that a prayer for guidelines would be broadening the scope of the present writ petition. It noted that since the Governor has taken some action, the initial grievance ventilated in the petition has been resolved.

The former AG then sought liberty to amend the petition to seek reliefs regarding guidelines. 

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