Supreme Court Ruling on Governors’ Veto Power over Bills

  • 25 Nov 2023

Recently, the Supreme Court established clear guidelines regarding the actions of a Governor when withholding assent to a Bill, emphasizing the prompt return of the Bill to the State Legislature.

Key Points

  • Governors Mandated to Send Bills Back Promptly: The Supreme Court asserts that Governors must promptly send back a Bill to the State Legislature if they choose to withhold assent. The emphasis is on expeditious communication.
  • No Discretion for Governors if Bill is Reiterated: In the event of the State Assembly reiterating the Bill, with or without amendments, Governors are stripped of any choice or discretion and are obligated to grant assent.
  • Article 200 and Legislative Authority: The court interprets Article 200, stating that while Governors can withhold assent, the subsequent actions must strictly follow the constitutional mandate, ensuring communication to the State Legislature for reconsideration.
  • Legislature's Autonomy in Decision-Making: The court emphasizes that the final decision on accepting the Governor's advice, conveyed through the message, rests solely with the legislature.
  • The expression 'if the Bill is passed again … with or without amendments' indicates the legislature's autonomy.
  • Governor's Role and Constitutional Limits: The court underscores that a Governor withholding a Bill without further action is in violation of the Constitution.
  • It warns against potential misuse of power, preventing the unelected Head of State from vetoing the elected legislature's functioning.
  • Constitutional Imperative of Expedition: The judgment stresses that Bills should be sent back to the Legislature "as soon as possible" with a mandatory message.
  • The term "as soon as possible" is deemed a constitutional imperative of expedition, preventing undue delays.
  • Verdict's Implication on Tamil Nadu's Case: While the judgment originated from a petition filed by the Punjab government, its implications are seen as significant for Tamil Nadu.
  • The verdict could impact the case where the Governor withheld assent to crucial Bills returned by the Tamil Nadu Assembly.