Context: Recently, Tamil Nadu Governor said that if a Governor withholds assent to a Bill passed by the Assembly, it means the “Bill is dead”.
More about the news:
The Supreme Court has defined withholding assent as the Bill falls through, the Bill is dead.
Under Article 200, once a Bill has been passed by the State Legislature, then the Governor has three options:
1. Either he assents to the Bill; or
2. He withholds assent therefrom; or
3. Reserves the Bill for the consideration of the President.
- The Governor as soon as possible shall return the Bill for the consideration of the House with his message as to what provisions of the Bill should be reconsidered by the Assembly. Now, the term “as soon as possible” has not been defined.
- Now, when the Bill is so returned, the Assembly shall reconsider the Bill and look into the suggestions or messages of the Governor regarding any specific provision.
- However, if the Bill is passed again by the House or Houses with or without amendment and presented to the Governor for assent, the Governor shall not withhold assent therefrom.
- The Governor does not have discretion on matters of the Assembly and is bound to follow the advice of his Council of Ministers even on matters where he/she might be withholding assent.
- Provided further that the Governor shall not assent to, but shall reserve for the consideration of the President, any Bill which in the opinion of the Governor would, if it became law, so derogate from the powers of the High Court as to endanger the position which that Court is by this Constitution designed to fill.
- In the entire provision of Article 200, no time frame as such has been provided. So, if the Bill is even reserved for the President’s Assent, then he is not time bound to accept or reject the Bill.
Is the president bound to accept or reject the bill which is reserved for president under Article 201?
Article 201- Bills reserved for President’s consideration
- When a Bill is reserved by a Governor for the consideration of the President, the President shall declare either that he assents to the Bill or that he withholds assent therefrom.
- Provided that, where the Bill is not a Money Bill – the President may direct the Governor to return the Bill to the House or Houses of the Legislature of the State together with such a message as is mentioned in the first proviso to article 200.
- And when a Bill is so returned, the House or Houses shall reconsider it accordingly within a period of six months from the date of receipt of such message and,
- if it is again passed by the House or Houses with or without amendment, it shall be presented again to the President for his consideration.
Note – Even under Article 201, no time limit has been provided under which the President has to assent or reject the Bill once the Governor reserve the Bill for President’s Assent.
The Article ends with the words that the Bill shall again be presented again to the President for his consideration. But what happens after the Bill is presented again has not been mentioned. So, technically, the President is not time bound to assent or reject the Bill which is sent again for his consideration and the Bill can be delayed.
The Supreme Court order in Shamser Singh vs State of Punjab (1975) that “the constitutional conclusion is that the Governor is but a shorthand expression for the State government and the President is an abbreviation of the Central government.”