At the head of the Government of a component state of the Indian union stands a Governor. The Governor of the States of India is appointed by the President of India for a period of five years.
A Governor is appointed on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers, or in reality on the advice of the Prime Minister. For the President to consult the Chief Minister of the concerned state, before the appointment of a Governor is not a constitutional requirement. But a healthy convention grew up that the Chief Minister was consulted. But in the case of appointment of several Governors, this convention has not been obeyed.
A Governor may be simultaneously assignee to more than one state. Thus, on many occasions, the Governor of Assam was also the Governor of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, etc.
A Governor is appointed for a period of 5 years. The President, if he so pleases may extend his tenure. A vacancy in the Governor’s post arises, if:
- (a) when the Governor completes his tenure,
- (b) resigns, (c) dies in office, and
- (d) is removed from office by the President.
The Governors also have often been transferred from one state to another.
The constitution does not specify grounds on which the Governors may be dismissed. Evidently Governors may be dismissed for gross misbehavior. But often Governors have been dismissed to suit the conveniences of Government at the centre.
Whether India should have elected or appointed Governor was intensely debated in the Constituent Assembly itself.
Though the draft constitution provided for elected Governors, the constitution as finally passed by the Constituent Assembly opted for appointed Governors.
Several objections were raised in the Constituent Assembly itself against the system of elected Governors.
Briefly, the objections were that
- the election itself would be expensive,
- that the elected Governor would consider himself a direct nominee of the people and hence would pose as a rival to the Chief Minister,
- the ruling party in the state would bag both the posts of the Governor and the Chief Minister.
This would surely create an anomalous situation.
On the other hand, the system of appointed Governors is not without serious objections.
Firstly, in federations like the U.S.A. or Australia, the state Governors are elected rather than appointed. That the head of the state administration, even if nominal, should be imposed by the central Government is repugnant to the strict federal spirit.
Secondly, a Governor appointed by the President and serving during his pleasure tends to work as the agent of the President i.e. of the central Government. In India, this has precisely been the case.
Thirdly, in states ruled by a party other than the ruling party at the centre, conflict between the State Council of Ministers and the Governor is very likely. The Governor may and often does manipulate the situations to precipitate a constitutional crisis, using his powers under art. 356. It requires a Governor of exceptional integrity to stand firm between centre and the state.
Even with those plausible drawbacks, the system of appointed Governors was accepted in India for some very important reasons.
Firstly, in country of India’s vastness and diversity, it is essential that the state Governor stands as a symbol of Indian unity. Governors with rare exceptions are from other states, symbolizing that India is essentially one country.
Secondly, disintegrating tendencies in India are very strong. To prevent Balkanization of India, it is essential, that the Governor work as the, watch-dog of the constitution and its proper working in the state. To serve this purpose, it is essential that the Governor works as the agent of the centre which only a nominated Governor will do.
Finally, a nominated Governor with no stake in the state politics will be act as a wise and impartial advisor to the Chief Minister. Thus a nominated Governor may prove to be an asset to a state.