|Saturday, July 15, 2000,
Right to prosecute CMs debated
NEW DELHI, July 14 — The controversial issue of granting permission to prosecute chief ministers for alleged acts of omission or commission is believed to have been keenly debated at the two-day conference of Governors and Lt Governors which concluded here yesterday.
The conference, specially convened for the first time by President K.R. Narayanan, facilitated the Governors in expressing their views and the inherent limitations in discharging their duties and responsibilities in today’s complex political environment.
Obviously, the Governors drew pointed attention to some of the grey areas. There is a growing feeling in some states that the Governor is treading on the toes of the executive. That has brought about an imbalance in the relationship between Raj Bhavan and some of the chief ministers.
This has been the subject of intense discussion in several states, including Tamil Nadu and Bihar, where the politicians embroiled in cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act have launched a frontal attack against the Governor and demanded their recall.
The argument in affected political circles is that the Governor does not enjoy the jurisdiction of granting permission to prosecute a chief minister. This authority in the opinion of these regional political parties rests with the executive and the Council of Ministers.
Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha’s original petition questioning the powers of a Governor to grant permission for proceeding against a politician holding high office is pending before the Supreme Court for the past five years. This matter has since been referred to a five-judge Bench.
Sources said the prepared speeches of Governors and Lt Governors was taken as read which left the floor open for the constitutional heads to speak freely on the delicate law and order situation prevailing in the country in the wake of increased militant violence and attacks against the minorities.
The conference carefully examined the role of Governors in dealing with the affairs of universities, utilising the scarce water resources productively and giving a push to socio-economic schemes for the uplift of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Considering the all-round increase in costs coupled with the fact that the pay and perquisites of MPs and legislators have been revised, this issue was discussed in passing at the Governors’ conference. That should be enough to get the Atal Behari Vajpayee government do the needful.
The Governors also deliberated about the apathetic state of affairs in various universities and how their efforts to step in to rectify matters met with stiff resistance from the state governments.
There has been a near-conflict situation on the universities issue between the Madhya Pradesh Governor, Dr Bhai Mahavir and the Congress Chief Minister, Mr Digvijay Singh. Serious cracks have developed in their relationship with the Governor urging the Lok Ayukta to submit the report to him about the Madhya Pradesh Government providing land far below the market rate to an Indore-based newspaper. The Lok Ayukta declined to do so and sent the report to the state government.
The Uttar Pradesh Governor, Mr Suraj Bhan, sought to convene a meeting of Collectors to assess the progress achieved in implementing schemes for the SCs and STs.
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