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‘You are playing with fire’, Supreme Court tells governor

‘What your government is doing in Punjab is also defeating the Constitution,’ a Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud tells senior counsel AM Singhvi, who represented the Punjab government

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‘You are playing with fire’, Supreme Court tells governor
New DelhiAmid a raging dispute between the Punjab government and the governor over the latter withholding certain bills passed by the state assembly, the Supreme Court on Friday cautioned Governor Banwarilal Purohit, saying he was playing with fire.

“You (Governor) are playing with fire. How can the Governor say the bills passed by the assembly are invalid because the session was irregular? These are bills passed by a duly elected body…Not clearing the bills saying that the session is unconstitutional is like playing with fire. Will we continue to be a parliamentary democracy?” a three-judge Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud wondered.

“Please don’t deflect the course of bills passed by the duly elected assembly. It’s a matter of very serious concern,” the Bench told Additional Solicitor General Satya Pal Jain, who represented the Governor’s Office.

The top court also disapproved of the Punjab government’s conduct in not proroguing the Budget Session and virtually merging it with the Winter Session.

“What your government is doing in Punjab is also defeating the Constitution,” the Bench told senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented the Punjab government.

“We understand that it may be necessary to adjourn the House sine die between the budget session…there may be Diwali etc. but your budget session is now going Monsoon… Monsoon goes to Winter session… If democracy has to work, it has to work in the hands of the Chief Minister and the Governor as well. You cannot ignore the rules of the House that there have to be three sessions,” the Bench told Singhvi.

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“Tell us when are you now proroguing the budget session which hasn’t been prolonged?” the Bench asked Singhvi who said, “I can’t give an exact date. Your Lordships may take it that the assembly intends to have a Winter Session in near foreseeable future.”

The top court sought to know under which provision of the Constitution the Governor could take such a recourse and if the Speaker did not have the power to adjourn the session sine die.

“They (Punjab Government and Speaker) were within their rights in adjourning it sine die and calling it again because the budget session hadn’t ended. How can you (Governor) say that bills which have been passed cannot be assented to because the session is invalid? You realise the gravity of what you’re doing?”

The Governor has refused to give his assent to certain bills passed by the state assembly questioning the validity of the session held on June 19-20 this year.

On Friday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought to intervene in the dispute between the Governor and the Punjab Government on behalf of the Centre, saying a solution could be found without contesting the matter.

“May I intervene? Let us have a solution under the Constitution. Give me a week. I am appearing for the UOI. I have instructions to say this needs a solution, not contention. We will find a solution, your lordships can rest assured…If your lordships give me a week, your lordships may not have to decide the case.”

However, the Bench said it would pass a short order after lunch. On Monday, the top court had disapproved of governors sitting over bills passed by state assemblies, saying they must act before the matter reached the top court. “Why does the party have to come to the Supreme Court? Governors act only when matters reach the Supreme Court. This has to stop. You come to the Supreme Court then the Governor starts acting. This shouldn’t be,” CJI Chandrachud had said.

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