A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra was irked by the fact that the governor, after the court’s November 10 order frowning upon the delay, cleared some long-pending bills on November 13.
However, attorney general R Venkataramani’s submission cooled down the proceedings.
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Venkataramani placed the list of 181 bills sent to the governor since January 13, 2020 and told the court that 151 of them had been cleared. He said the government had withdrawn five bills and the governor had reserved nine bills for the President’s consideration.
The AG said the governor had withheld assent to 10 bills, while five more, sent to him in October, were in the process of consideration. “All the 12 bills mentioned in the writ petition (filed by the TN government) were disposed of on November 13. Out of these, assent is withheld in 10 bills and two bills have been reserved for consideration of the President. As on November 16, only five bills, which have been received in October, are under consideration,” he added.
Appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, A M Singhvi and Mukul Rohatgi said the governor, under Article 200 of the Constitution, was bound to spell out his reservations against a bill while withholding assent. “The governor has communicated just one sentence — ‘I am withholding consent’,” they said.
The Tamil Nadu assembly, through a special session on November 18, re-passed the 10 bills to which the governor had withheld assent, and sent these back for clearance. As per Article 200, once the governor returns a bill to the assembly and the latter re-approves it, the governor has no discretion but to give assent to it.
All the 12 bills on which the governor has withheld assent relate to stripping the governor of the power to appoint vice-chancellors to various state-established universities. The court requested the AG to provide the status of bills pending before the governor on December 1, when the matter will be heard again.