New Delhi: Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra Wednesday acquiesced to call an assembly session, as the Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot had been demanding for over a week. However, Mishra told ThePrint in an interview that he didn’t even take an hour to give his consent to call the assembly once the government had sent a proposal according to the rules.
The reason for the delay, Mishra said, was that the chief minister was not answering his specific question on whether a trust vote would be held.
“I was never against calling a short assembly session, provided the Gehlot government’s resolution clearly mentioned that the session would be for a trust vote,” Mishra said.
Now that he has given permission for the assembly to be called into session, is there a truce between the governor and the CM? Mishra responded by saying: “There was no war or stalemate… My only objection was that the rule book be followed. I was not against calling an assembly session, but that normal convention laid down by the Constitution be followed.”
He further explained: “If this were a normal session, a proper 21-day notice should be given so that necessary arrangements can be made. If this is an emergency session or a special need has arisen, it should be clearly specified in the proposal. Now that they (the government) have receded from their earlier position and sent a proposal for the session from 14 August, I have given consent immediately.”
Allegations of not following Constitution
Rajasthan Governor Mishra also rebutted Gehlot and other Congress leaders’ allegations that he was not following the Constitution and “taking instructions” from elsewhere, despite being bound by the advice of the council of ministers in normal circumstances.
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“I am only following the Constitution, but this is not a normal situation. We are in the midst of a pandemic, and the governor must look after the safety of the MLAs,” Mishra said.
“Article 174 (1) says the governor will act on the advice of the council of ministers in normal circumstances, but in special circumstances, governor will ensure an assembly session should be called constitutionally, and the security of members, their right to free expression and independent travel without any fear should be protected,” he said.
“If we see the Supreme Court ruling in the Nabam Rebia case (in Arunachal Pradesh), it said the governor’s decision should not be fanciful or arbitrary, but must be dictated by reason, actuated by good faith and tempered by caution. I am only following these, after consulting with constitutional experts,” the governor added.
“The number of Covid cases in the state has gone up three times, so why should the health of 1,200 staff and MLAs be jeopardised if there is no urgent or special need to call the assembly session? The second reason I have cited, according to the Nabam Rebia case, is good faith — right now, MLAs are in different hotels within the state and outside, in captivity. The governor’s duty is ensure their presence in assembly and that they exercise their right without any pressure or fear,” Mishra said.
“The third criteria is caution — I am exercising this by simply saying that if there is a special emergency reason for calling an assembly session, it should be spelt out in the communication.”
Governor must act with his wisdom
Asked if he had any doubts whether the Gehlot government had adequate numbers in the assembly, Rajasthan Governor Mishra insisted that the delay in calling the assembly session was only due to protocol issues.
“I never said I would not allow the session to be called on short notice. My only request was if you are calling the session for a trust vote, mention it in the cabinet proposal, whereas if you are calling it for regular transaction of business like the monsoon session, follow the set protocol of giving 21-day notice, which they are now following. Why were they not mentioning it in their proposal of urgency?” he asked.
“There is no question of delay. First, the chief minister sent a letter to calling a session on 23 July, but it was not cabinet decision, so it cannot be considered a formal request. The first proposal was received on 25 July, but it was sent to communicate the limitations of the governor’s power. But they forget, this is not ordinary situation. In special situations, the governor has the constitutional right to act with his ‘vivek’ (wisdom),” he insisted.
Asked if he believed CM Gehlot would move a trust motion in the assembly session, Mishra simply said: “That is house business, it will be decided by the CM and the house agenda will be set by the Speaker. I have no role in the transaction of business in the house. The governor’s role is to see that constitutional provisions should be followed.”
Asked if it was the governor’s job to worry about special arrangements for MLAs and staff due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mishra replied: “It is the duty of government to make arrangement to contain Covid and for testing, but the governor, as the constitutional head of the state, has a duty to ensure MLAs’ safety. There should be proper social distancing and the Supreme Court’s decision should be followed if there is any trust vote.”
Gherao of Raj Bhavan
Asked for his reaction when CM Gehlot said there could be a public gherao of the Raj Bhavan, and if he was contemplating the dismissal of the government due to the law and order situation, Mishra said it had saddened him.
“I was very sad when chief minister himself said the state government would not be responsible if the public gheraoed the Raj Bhavan. Many parties said central forces should be deployed, but I don’t take this seriously,” he said.
“When I asked the chief minister about this, he said he did not mean that. It was not right for the CM to lower the dignity of the governor — after all, the governor belongs to everyone, not any party. If the chief minister will not protect the dignity of this constitutional post, who will?”
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