Constitutional Conundrum: Punjab Governor Questions Assembly Session, Legal Experts Weigh In

Constitutional Conundrum: Punjab Governor Questions Assembly Session, Legal Experts Weigh In

Introduction:

In a recent development that has raised concerns over the legality and legitimacy of the Punjab Assembly Session held on 19th and 20th June 2023, Governor Banwarilal Purohit has expressed reservations and questioned the session convened by the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. The Governor’s actions have prompted a debate over the constitutional procedures and the authority of the Assembly. Legal experts and advocates, however, assert that the session was indeed legal and compliant with constitutional requirements.

 

 

Background:

The controversy stems from the fact that no summoning order was issued by the Punjab Governor, as mandated by Article 174(1) of the Indian Constitution, before the two-day Assembly session in question. However, legal experts argue that this was not necessary, as the session was a continuation of the ongoing Budget Session, which had been duly summoned by the Governor on 3rd March 2023. The Budget Session, which has not been prorogued by the Governor as of today, has seen adjournments sine die twice, first on 22nd March 2023 and then on 20th June 2023.

 

 

Expert Opinion:

Hemant Kumar, an advocate at the Punjab & Haryana High Court, unequivocally maintains that the two-day Punjab Assembly session was entirely legal and constitutional. He emphasizes that the absence of a summoning order for the specific session in question is immaterial, given that it was a continuation of the ongoing Budget Session. According to Hemant Kumar, the power to call and convene the House lies with the Presiding Officer (Speaker), who, in this case, was competent to do so without the Governor’s approval.

Explaining the difference between prorogation and adjournment sine die, Hemant Kumar highlights that prorogation is the formal discontinuation of sittings of the House by the Governor, while adjournment sine die is ordered by the Speaker at the conclusion of all sittings. He further clarifies that the summoning and prorogation of the House, as stipulated by Article 174(1) and Article 174(2)(a) of the Constitution of India, respectively, are effectively decided by the ruling executive, led by the Chief Minister, with subsequent recommendations made to the Governor for the issuance of formal orders.

 

 

Past Standoff and Supreme Court Intervention:

The current dispute between the Chief Minister and the Governor has its roots in an earlier incident. In February of the same year, when the State Government sought the Governor’s assent to summon the Punjab Vidhan Sabha for the Budget Session, the Governor instead raised queries and requested information from Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann under Article 167(b) of the Constitution of India. The Chief Minister chose not to respond, leading to a standoff between the two. Eventually, the matter reached the Supreme Court, which reprimanded both parties on 28th February 2023, urging them to resolve the issue. Consequently, with the intervention of the apex court, the deadlock was eventually resolved.

 

Conclusion:

The ongoing dispute between the Punjab Governor and the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government over the legality and legitimacy of the Assembly session has sparked a debate on constitutional procedures and the powers vested in the Governor and the Speaker. While the Governor questions the session’s legitimacy, legal experts argue that the session was within the constitutional framework, as it was a continuation of the Budget Session duly summoned by the Governor. As the matter awaits the opinion of the Attorney General for India, the resolution of this constitutional conundrum will have far-reaching implications for the functioning of the Punjab Assembly and the interpretation of constitutional provisions governing Assembly sessions.

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