RN Ravi vs MK Stalin: Conflict escalates as TN Governor sends ten bills back to the TN Assembly!

Days after the Supreme Court took a jibe on deliberate delay observed by the Governors of the non-BJP ruling states in consenting the bills passed by the state assemblies, Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi has finally reacted to some of the bills that were idled before him for several months. While it was expected that he would give his consent, he has now sent ten bills back to the Assembly without passing them. 

On Thursday - November 16, Governor RN Ravi has sent these crucial bills back to the Tamil Nadu Assembly, prompting the MK Stalin administration to convene the assembly to put the bills back on the Governor's court for second time. The bills that the Governor sent back to the Assembly include empowering the Chief Minister to be the Chancellor of Universities instead of the Governor. 

The bill aims to limit the Governor's arbitrary interventions in the business of universities and to empower the state government in appointing the vice-chancellors of the universities. The bill would also give power to the state to include a government nominee in the panel to recommend candidates for appointment as vice-chancellor. Most of the bills that the Governor sent back to the Assembly today were pending before him for years. 

The timing of Governor RN Ravi's conduct of denying the assent to these bills holds significance as it has come at a high time when the MK Stalin government has waged a legal battle in the Supreme Court against Ravi's deliberate delay in clearing the bills. Tamil Nadu is one of the litigants with two other non-BJP ruling states Kerala and Punjab that are fighting against the contentious behaviours of the Governors of their states in causing a delay in passing the bills that are vested with the interests of the states. 

According to the Tamil Nadu government's petition in the Supreme Court, where the state has sought a judicial direction to the Governor to clear the bills and the laws to be modified include - Tamil Nadu Fisheries University Act, 2012, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, 1989, Tamil Nadu University Laws Act, The Madras University Act, 1923, The Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law University Act, 1996, the Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University Chennai Act, 1987, The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Act, 1971, and the Tamil University Act, 1982. 

While two of these eleven bills were sent to the Governor in 2020, seven were sent in 2022, and two were sent in 2023. Now, the Governor has sent these bills back to the Assembly. While the legal battle has triggered a fresh conflict between the Governor and the Tamil Nadu government, RN Ravi's decision to send the bills back to the Assembly had fueled it and amidst strengthening its judicial pressure against the Governor, the state government is gearing up to pass these bills and send them back to the Governor again. 

Moments after the Governor has sent the bills back to the Assembly, the state government has decided to convene a special assembly session on Saturday - November 18 to pass these bills for the second time. As per the constitutional norms, the Governor can't dismiss the bills if they were sent for the second time - he is entitled either to give his approval or to forward the same to the President. 

Supreme Court takes a jibe against the Governors 

Through taking the matter to the Supreme Court, the Tamil Nadu government has sought a direction to the Governor to clear the bills, files and other government orders forwarded by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and the government in a timely manner. The deliberate delay caused by the Governors in passing the bills has been a major issue raised by the non-BJP ruling states and taking the fight forward, the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Punjab have knocked the doors of the apex court. 

In these states, there have been escalating conflicts between the Governors and the governments and in its petition, the Tamil Nadu government has also demanded the top court to lay down guidelines stipulating an outer time limit for the Governor to consider bills passed by the legislature and sent for assent under Article 200 of the Constitution, which gives power to Governors to grant assent, withhold assent or reserve the bill for the President's consideration. 

During a hearing last week, the apex court bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud described the issue raised in Tamil Nadu's petition as a matter of 'serious concern' and it also called for assistance from Attorney General Venkataramani or from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. The court has also sent notices to Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi's secretary and to the Union home secretary and adjourned the hearing to November 24. 

The political analysts commented that the Supreme Court has come down heavy on RN Ravi and his arbitrary conducts as the court remarked that the Governors are forgetting that they aren't elected directly by the people. As these serious setbacks against the Governors had sparked a notion that the apex court would pass a directive of awarding a stipulated timeframe for them to act on the bills passed by the state legislatures, Governor RN Ravi, nearly ten days ahead of the Supreme Court's hearing, has acted on the bills - only to send them back to the Tamil Nadu Assembly.