Adjudicating the issue, the Supreme Court has criticised both Mann and Purohit and observed that they were both “derelict” in discharging their duties under the Constitution. The court held that political differences have to be worked out with a sense of sobriety, writes Rajendra Khatry
Punjab recently witnessed an ugly spat between the Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and the Governor Banwari Lal Purohit of late. A constitutional crisis arose when the Governor refused to give assent to the CM’s plea to convene the assembly session till he answered the queries sought by him.
In turn CM Bhagwant Mann questioned the very basis of the Governor’s appointment. In a written communication to the Governor, the chief minister questioned the Governor’s authority to question him. Mann reasoned that he was an elected representative of the people, while the Governor was a central government appointee.
As the unfortunate war of words and imbroglio continued, a hapless Chief Minister approached the Supreme Court. The bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud agreed to grant an urgent hearing to the Punjab government’s petition against Purohit’s refusal to summon the assembly for the Budget session from March 3. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the Governor released a letter summoning the session from March 3.
While deciding the controversial matter, the Supreme Court criticised the role of both Mann and Purohit and observed that they were both “derelict” in discharging their duties under the Constitution. Not only this, but the SC also pointed out that Mann failed in performing his duty under Article 167 of the Constitution.
According to the SC, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader declined to furnish information to the governor regarding his queries on certain issues, which included some appointments, and the scholarship scheme as well as the selection of school principals for sending them to Singapore for training.
The SC also observed that the political differences in a democratic polity are acceptable. These differences have to be worked out with a sense of sobriety and maturity without allowing the discourse to degenerate to become a race to the bottom.
Earlier Banwarilal Purohit questioned the selection of school principals for a foreign trip. This led to a sharp response from Chief Minister Mann, who said that his government is only answerable to Punjabis and not a Centre-appointed governor. Obviously the row erupted after Purohit wrote a letter to Mann asking for details on the selection of government school principals sent to Singapore for a training seminar, saying he has received complaints of “malpractices and illegalities” and needed clarification.
Taking umbrage at the CM’s stance , the Governor claimed that Mann never cared to reply to his letters in the past. Purohit told the chief minister that people did not elect him to run the state according to his `whims and fancies. Under the Constitution, the CM was bound to furnish any information sought by the Raj Bhavan.
According to his letter, the governor had earlier also written to Mann on the alleged “illegal” appointment of Punjab Agricultural University vice-chancellor and promotion of an IPS officer who was moved for alleged misconduct, among other issues. In a threatening mode, the Governor asked the chief minister to reply to his letter within a fortnight or else he would seek legal advice for further action against him.
The governor was also reported to be upset over the appointment of Gurinderjit Singh Jawanda as Chairman of Punjab Information and Communication and Technology Corporation Ltd. the governor writer to the Chief Minister that as per complaint, he came to know that you (CM) appointed Gurinderjit Singh Jawanda as Chairman of Punjab Information and Communication and Technology Corporation Ltd., which is a very important and prestigious Corporation of Punjab.
The Governor felt concerned that the name of Gurinderjit Singh Jawanda had appeared in a kidnapping and property grabbing case. In this regard Purohit sought the full details of that case. This reportedly also irked the Chief Minister who looked at it as some kind of interference in discharging his official duties.
On an earlier date the Punjab government had sent 36 government school principals to a professional teacher training seminar in Singapore from February 6 to 10. This matter also became a bone of contention between the governor and the Chief Minister.
The Governor wrote to the CM that “I have received complaints in respect to the selection of principals for sending them to Singapore for training. The complainants point out certain malpractices and illegalities in the selection of these principals. The allegation is that there is no transparency,” Purohit said in his letter.
“I, therefore, request you to send me the criteria and details of the entire selection process. Please also give detail if it was widely published throughout Punjab. As per news reports… The first batch has come back. Please let me have details of total expenditure incurred on traveling and boarding lodging and expenses towards training,” he had said.