Relations between Kerala Governor, Arif Mohammed Khan and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government in the State have come under severe strain following the former’s strong criticism of the latter’s decision to move the Supreme Court against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Kerala became the first State in the country to approach the apex court urging it to declare the law enacted by Parliament violative of the Constitution, its basic structure and secular principles.

The petition has been filed two weeks after the Kerala Assembly passed a resolution – the first state to do so – demanding that the CAA be scrapped.

The Governor, who has been critical of the state government’s moves against the CAA, upped the ante with his latest statement. Talking to newsmen, Arif Mohammed Khan said he would seek legal opinion on whether the State Government can move the SC without his permission.

He said the State Government should have informed him of its decision as he was the constitutional head of the State.

Government’s move, A Few legal experts agree, is violative of the protocol and the Business Rules of the State Assembly.

However, opinion is divided on the issue. Some legal experts say that the Government could have informed the Governor as a matter of courtesy. But there was absolutely no needs for it to take the Governor’s prior permission to move the SC against a law passed b y Parliament.

They are also of the firm view that the Governor clearly crossed the limits by rushing to the press to voice his criticism. The Governor should have used other channels of communication available to him under the Constitution instead of going public.

For instance, the Governor could have informed the President. Or he could have summoned the Chief Minister to his office to convey his displeasure. He could have also written to the CM expressing his opinion on the issue.

By refusing to use any of these options and going public in the manner of a full-time politician, the Governor has gone against the accepted norms governing his public conduct. The office of Governor imposes certain restrictions on his words and deeds. That he chose to behave like a politician who rush to the press at the drop of a hat as it were was, to say the least, unfortunate. Moreover, there are several rulings by the Supreme Court which say that the Governor should not behave like a political agent. True, he is the representative of the Centre. But he should not act as if he is the chief of the ruling party’s State unit. By making the kind of statements he did, the Governor has acted as if he were the State BJP president!

That exactly is the criticism voiced by various political parties in the State including the CPI(M) which heads the LDF Government. The allies of the CPI(M) in the LDF, also share the same view. Even the Congress, which heads the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in the State, vehemently criticises the Governor’s conduct. As for the Chief Minister, it must be said, in fairness to him, that he had been maintaining exemplary restraint. In fact, the CM had earned the wrath of the opposition parties for remaining tight-lipped in the face of the Governor’s intemperate outbursts. He broke his silence only after the Governor made his latest statement.

Be that as it may, the need of the hour is to ensure that the Governor-Government faceoff does not go beyond the point of no return. Both sides must maintain utmost restraint preventing a further deterioration in the relations between the two.

Should the Governor, who fired the first salvo on the issue at the Indian History Congress held at Kannur recently, refuse to do so, then the President must recall him. What Kerala needs at this point of time is a Governor like Khan’s predecessor Sadasivam. Justice Sadasivam also had his differences with the LDF Government. But he never crossed the limits imposed on his office. He made his displeasure known to the Government through proper channel – either by writing to the CM or by summoning him for a discussion. Arif Mohammed Khan should take a cue from the exemplary conduct of Sadasivam. Is it too much to expect from a Governor who believes in functioning like the chief of a political party?

A senior political expert rightly said that Khan should resign the Governor’s post and act like a full-time politician. Another commentator said he is in any case doing a better job defending the Modi Government than the BJP leaders in the State have been able to do!

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