Punjab Governor vs AAP Govt: Assembly Summoned on March 3, SG Tushar Mehta Tells Supreme Court

Amid a tussle with the AAP government, Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit on Monday told the Supreme Court that he has summoned the Assembly for the budget session on March 3 even as the top court told both sides that constitutional discourse has to be conducted with a sense of decorum and mature statesmanship.

The court, which was hearing the state government’s plea against the governor’s alleged “refusal” to summon the Budget session for March 3, said the Punjab government is duty-bound to furnish information as sought by the governor and at the same time the governor is also duty-bound to accept the recommendations of Cabinet on the convening of assembly.

The apex court said there was no occasion for the Punjab governor to seek legal advice on whether to convene a Budget session as he is bound by the aid and advice of ministers.

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud took note of the submission of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the governor, that the plea filed by the Punjab government does not survive in view of the governor’s decision to convene the Assembly.

“While this court is cognisant of free speech and expression, constitutional discourse has to be conducted with a sense of decorum and mature statesmanship, particularly in the context of constitutional dialogue between functionaries.

“Political differences in a democratical polity are acceptable and have to be worked out with sobriety. Unless these principles were borne in mind, the effective implementation of constitutional values is liable to be placed in jeopardy,” the bench also comprising Justice PS Narasimha said.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the Punjab government, alleged that the governor was hijacking the Constitution.

“A constitutional authority is acting in ignorance of the Constitution. He is hijacking the Constitution,” Singhvi said.

Mehta told the apex court that the plea filed by the Punjab government has become infructuous and will not survive.

“Governor never refused and he said he is taking legal advice,” he said.

The top court earlier in the day agreed to hear the plea of the Punjab government as Singhvi requested for urgent hearing on Tuesday itself.

The tussle between Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had worsened last week with Purohit indicating he is in no hurry to summon the assembly’s budget session, and reminding the CM about his “derogatory” response to a letter from the Raj Bhavan.

In that February 13 letter, the governor had asked Mann to explain the process of selecting 36 government school principals for a training seminar held recently in Singapore, and raised other issues as well.

Mann had responded that he was only answerable to three crore Punjabis, not to a Centre-appointed governor and also questioned the Centre’s criteria for appointing governors.

Purohit had called Mann’s replies not only “patently unconstitutional but extremely derogatory” also, saying he was compelled to take legal advice.

Purohit’s letter to CM Mann had come two days after the Punjab Cabinet decided to call the assembly session on March 3 and requested the governor to summon the House.

The governor had told Mann that he will take a call on summoning the budget session only after taking legal advice on the CM’s response to the issues raised by him in an earlier letter.

“Since your tweet and letter both not only patently unconstitutional but extremely derogatory also, therefore, I am compelled to take legal advice on this issue. Only after getting legal advice, I will take a decision on your request,” said Purohit in the latest letter.

Purohit had questioned the selection of school principals for a foreign trip for a training seminar, saying he has received complaints of “malpractices and illegalities”.

He had also raised issues of “illegal” appointment of the Punjab Agricultural University vice-chancellor and promotion of an IPS officer who was shunted out for alleged misconduct, among others.

Claiming that Mann “never cared to reply” to his letters in the past, Purohit had told the chief minister that people did not elect him to run the state according to his “whims and fancies” and that as per the Constitution, he is “bound to furnish” any information sought by the Raj Bhavan.

The governor had asked the chief minister to reply to his letter within a fortnight, failing which he would seek legal advice for further action.

Last year too, there had been a squabble between the governor and the AAP government over holding a session of the Punjab Assembly.

The governor had withdrawn the permission to hold a special session on September 22 after seeking legal opinion when the AAP government wanted to bring a confidence motion only in the House.

Later, the governor gave his nod only after the government provided details of the legislative business.

In October, Governor Purohit had refused to approve the AAP government’s pick for the vice chancellor’s post at Faridkot’s Baba Farid University of Health Sciences.

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