The powers of Governors and Lt. Governors

How powerful is a Governor?

  • The powers a Governor has in the state they administer is equivalent to that of the President.
  • They can appoint Chief Ministers, Ministers, the State Election Commissioner and judges of the District Courts.
  • They also serve as Chancellors of all the universitites in the state.
  • The Governor can also dissolve the state Assembly if they see the need, and if the Assembly is not in session, they can promulgate ordinances. Based on the recommendation of the Election Commission, the Governor can also disqualify a legislator.
  • Another power the Governor holds is to rule the state in case the ruling party loses its majority in the Assembly, as in Jammu and Kashmir now.

What about a Lieutenant Governor?

  • A Lieutenant Governor also has the same powers. Only three Union Territories — Andaman and Nicobar, Delhi and Puducherry — have Lt. Governors.
  • These powers are in place to ensure checks and balances for the state government and its functioning.

Why is there hue and cry when the Governors impose their powers?

  • Well, that’s because of another set of powers the Governor has, called discretionary powers. It is here that the Governor differs from the President, in that their powers are far larger, and ill-defined.
  • One such power is that the Governor can use his discretion to select a chief ministerial candidate. As seen in Karnataka recently, Governor Vajubhai Vala invited the BJP, the single-largest party to form the government, even after the Congress-JDS combine had the numbers to prove a majority. Meanwhile, Governors in Goa and Manipur invited the BJP to form the government, using their discretionary powers, and the party formed post-poll alliances to supplement its numbers in the states.
  • Moreover, the Governor can report to the President about the failure of constitutional machinery in the state. The Governor can also reserve or refuse to sign a Bill that has been passed by the Assembly.

Is it true that the Lt. Governor of Delhi has more power?

  • In an observation made in November 2017, the Supreme Court said that the Lt. Governor of Delhi has more powers that the Governor of a State — he does not have to listen to the advice of the Council of Ministers.
  • In the case of Delhi, since portfolios like land, police and public order fall under the domain of the Centre, of which the Lt. Governor is a representative, he holds more powers than a Governor.


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