This issue raises a number of knotty questions and has been used by the Centre to assert its hegemony at the state level. In theory, the Chief Minister and his ministers, according to Article 164(1), hold office during the pleasure of the Governor. Yet, they are not totally at the mercy of the Governor because Clause (1) of Article 164 must be read together with Clause (2) of the same article. It says that the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the state legislature.
It also includes the Chief Minister ostensibly because he is the head of this council. This means that so long as the ministry enjoys the confidence of the legislature, it can hold office. However, the phrase is not as simple as it sounds and may lead to several complicated problems.
What happens when a Chief Minister and his party men are reduced to a minority in the legislature through defections? The Governor, in this case can ask the C.M. to prove his strength on the floor of the Assembly.
The Committee of Governors, appointed by the President in 1970, had recommended that a C.M.’s refusal to test his strength on the floor of the Assembly can well be interpreted prima facie as proof of his no longer enjoying the confidence of the legislature.
It may also happen that a reluctant C.M. may try to change the date of the Assembly meeting. When the C.M. dilly-dallying, tries to bypass the meeting, the Governor has no alternative but to dismiss him and his ministry. He can also make a report to the President under Article 356 regarding the failure of constitutional machinery in his state. In case the strength is tested during an Assembly meeting and the C.M. fails to muster a majority, he can easily by dismissed by the Governor. What is to be emphasized here is that dismissal should by the Governor. What is to be emphasized here is that dismissal should take place only after a clear-cut verdict by the Assembly.
In other words, Article 164 (1) should come into force when Article 164(2) has been fully observed. A situation may arise when a defeated ministry refuses to resign even after a vote of no-confidence has been passed against it. In such circumstances, the Governor is entitled to dismiss the ministry and install a new ministry in the state. Defeat of the government on important policy matters, for instance the budget, also tantamount to a vote of no-confidence against the government and creates grounds for intervention by the Governor and, in all probability, would lead to the dismissal of the government.
But, what would happen in case a Chief Minister, who is accused of corruption, misadministration or any other unpatriotic deed, enjoys the confidence of the House? Pylee says that a Chief Minister or a minister can be removed if he undermines the unity of the nation and establishes an independent state or enters into secret negotiations with a foreign power with a view to dismiss such a ministry, even if it enjoys a majority in the legislature. In cases of corruption too the Governor can order the prosecution of the Chief Minister which may subsequently lead to his dismissal.
The case of A.R. Antulay can be cited here. Antulay took over as the C.M. of Maharashtra in 1980. In August he was charged with abuse of power in allotting cement, an essential commodity, to certain big builders as quid pro quo for donations made to the trusts which he had created. PB. Samant and others filed a petition in the High Court and Justice Lentin found Antulay guilty of corruption.
Antulay resigned and appealed against the decision, but of no avail. The Governor of Maharashtra, acting on his own discretion, gave his sanction to the applicants to prosecute Antulay under the Prevention of Corruption Act, after giving a full hearing to Antulay.
The power to dismiss the C.M. of a state is in reality not a discretionary one and may have serious repercussions on the Governor’s career itself, as was proved in April 1994 in the case of Goa. On 2 April, 1994, Governor Bhanu Pratap Singh dismissed the C.M. of the state, D’Souza’s closest rival Ravi Naik without taking the approval of the Centre. Retribution followed soon and the Governor himself was unceremoniously dismissed on 3rd April, 1994.
Dismissal of a Minister or the Council of Ministers
When the Governor appoints the Chief Minister under Article 164(1), he is not acting on anyone’s advice. But, while appointing the council of ministers under the same clause, he acts on the advice of the Chief Minister.
This would imply that he is not as free while removing a minister or the council as a whole as he is while removing the Chief Minister. The advice of the Chief Minister is obligatory on the part of the Governor with regard to the dismissal of other ministers. “In the absence of such authority in the hands of the Chief Minister, parliamentary democracy is nothing but a farce.”
The Governor can dismiss a minister on the advice of the Chief Minister. However, he cannot dismiss the ministry in a collective form, for the words “during the pleasure of the Governor” in reality mean the pleasure of the legislative assembly. The right to oust them collectively belongs to the assembly and not to the Governor. Lastly, in all cases of dismissal of the C.M., a minister or the entire ministry, the decision of the Governor is final and cannot be challenged in any court of law.