Kerala Law Minister A.K. Balan on Saturday said Governor Arif Muhammad Khan’s “apprehension” that the government had flouted rules of governance by keeping him in the dark about its decision to appeal the citizenship law in the Supreme Court appeared misplaced.
Speaking to reporters at the venue of the CPM central secretariat here, Mr. Balan said the government had sought legal opinion to allay Mr. Khan’s concerns.
This government has a legal obligation to answer his questions. It has in no way infringed on the rights of the gubernatorial office or attempted to lower its esteem in the public eye.
(The Governor said on Friday that he would seek a report from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan as to why he was not informed about the appeal as per the rules of business of administration.)
Mr. Balan said the rules specified that the government should “inform” the Governor only on measures adopted in matters that involve a “confrontation” between the State and the Centre. Even on such issues, the State government did not require the “assent” of the Governor to act.
Mr. Balan said the Kerala government was not in conflict with the Centre.
It had invoked the provisions of Article 131 of the Constitution to file a civil suit in the SC against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act enacted by Parliament and signed into law by the President.
(The CAA seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim religious minorities facing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.)
Kerala had argued the law violated Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution.
The provisions guaranteed equality before the law, protection of life and personal liberty, freedom of conscience and freedom of profession and freedom to practise and propagate the religion of an individual’s choice. Kerala was the first State in the Union to do so.
Mr. Balan said the SC was considering the State’s petition. The apex court had not rejected the lawsuit on the ground that the State had not taken the prior sanction of the Governor to invoke Article 131.
The Law Minister appeared to have struck a placatory tone in the government’s ongoing and politically volatile dispute with the Governor on the CAA issue.
Mr .Balan’s reply was in stark contrast to an editorial in the CPM mouthpiece Deshabhimani, which accused Mr. Khan of overstepping his constitutional bounds.
Mr. Khan on Friday held Mr Vijayan responsible for the “lapse”, and said he had a legal obligation to ensure that the “constitutional machinery in the State did not collapse”.
Mr. Khan appeared to have had ratcheted up his dispute with the government over the CAA in the run-up to his Republic Day address and the opening of the budget session of the Legislative Assembly on January 31. He had also apparently taken the fight to the Chief Minister’s doorstep.