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A key argument invoked by TN Governor R N Ravi in his letter dismissing Senthil Balaji from the cabinet was that the Supreme Court had observed in 2022 that Senthil Balaji is an influential person and that’s why he was able to evade being charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The governor argued that since the court itself had so, continuance of Senthil Balaji as minister would obstruct the due process of law and disrupt justice.
In an interview to inmathi.com retired Justice Hari Paranthaman said the Supreme Court has said that instead of the Prevention of Corruption Act mandating disqualification upon conviction, it should be changed so those who are chargesheeted are also disqualified. Civil society has supported this. This would have meant that Jayalalithaa wouldn’t have been able to become chief minister after being chargesheeted. But no political party is supporting that change in law.
The question is now is not that, Hari Paranthaman added. When the law is clear that only those convicted and given at least a two-year jail term will be disqualified and will have to lose their position, the governor has no right to order dismissal. Amit Shah was chargesheeted and tried while he was home minister of Gujarat. Many MPs and ministers including in the BJP will have to lose their position if the governor’s point is to be implemented across India. That’s why he has reprimanded the governor, he said.
Even when Karunanidhi was dismissed during Emergency the governor was in good terms him until the dismissal
“Many MLAs, MPs and ministers are facing criminal proceedings for corruption, murder and rape. They are in positions of power as minister or are MLAs and MPs,” he said, adding, “No one should be minister without portfolio. But starting from Nehru and Shastri, there have been ministers without portfolio. Murasoli Maran was minister during Vajpayee.”
No governor has done what TN Governor Ravi is doing, he said, referring to the governor holding off on assent to legislation and other adversarial actions of the governor. Even when Karunanidhi was dismissed during Emergency the governor was in good terms until the dismissal. So was the case with MGR whom Indira Gandhi dismissed in 1980.
Today all the governors in opposition ruled states are super chief ministers, Hari Paranthaman said. How can nominated people have power? It’s not a question of Governor Ravi or Chief Minister M K Stalin, but one of elected vs nominated.
Supreme Court has only said that Senthil Balaji was an influential person, and that the investigating officer should have done his or her duty irrespective of the influential person. That doesn’t mean the governor can invoke that to even think he has the powers to dismiss Senthil Balaji. Jayalalithaa was influential, so was Amit Shah. The BJP should change the Representation of the People Act if it wants to pass a law that will mandate disqualification if chargesheet is filed, said retired judge Hari Paranthaman.
Clause 2 of Article 163 of the Constitution that the governor has quoted discusses the discretionary powers of the governor. Clause 3 says his action under his discretionary powers shall not be reviewed as to whether it was as per the advice given by the cabinet. Justice Hari Paranthaman said Clause 2 and 3 should be read always with Clause 1 that says that the governor should act as per the advice of the cabinet headed by the chief minister except specifically mandated by the Constitution. The only discretionary power TN Governor Ravi has is the discretionary power of the cabinet headed by the chief minister. The governor is a ceremonial function just like the president and has no powers outside of the cabinet.
Clause 3 says, “The question of whether any and if so what, advice was tendered by Ministers to the Governor shall not be inquired into in any court.” On this, Hari Paranthaman referred to the then governor dismissing the mercy petition of the Rajiv Gandhi case convicts without taking advice from the state government. The court ruled that the governor has to take the advice of the cabinet which, headed by M Karunanidhi, later recommended that the petition be accepted.
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