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Thursday, May 31, 2001

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'Unfettered powers' of Governor to appoint CM challenged

By Our Legal Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MAY 30. The constitutional validity of Article 164 (4) which gives unfettered powers to the Governor of a State to appoint ``any person'' as a Minister/Chief Minister has been challenged in the Supreme Court in a public interest litigation petition.

The petition, along with three other PIL petitions questioning the appointment of the AIADMK supremo, Ms. Jayalalitha, as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu by the Governor, Ms. Fathima Beevi, will come up for hearing before a vacation Bench, comprising Mr. Justice S.S.M. Quadri, and Mr. Justice Doraiswamy Raju, on June 4.

The petitioner, Mr. B.R. Kapur, senior advocate (who has also challenged Ms. Jayalalitha's appointment) has sought a declaration that Article 164 (4) is ultra vires of the Constitution and void as it is being misused and abused by the constitutional functionaries.

He cited the instance of the swearing-in of Ms. Jayalalitha as Chief Minister on May 14 by the Tamil Nadu Governor, exercising her powers under Article 164 (4), notwithstanding the fact that Ms. Jayalalitha, who had been convicted and disqualified to contest an election under Sec. 8 (3) of the Representation of the People Act.

Since Article 164 (4) gave unguided and blanket powers to the Governor, even a convicted person, a person of unsound mind, an insolvent person and a foreigner could be made Chief Minister and he/she could be continued to be reappointed after a gap of a day or two before the expiry of every six months and continue for years without facing elections.

Contending that Article 164 (4) was an anti-thesis to democracy, the petitioner said Ms. Jayalalitha's appointment had defeated the very purpose of the preamble to the Constitution. Also being a convicted person, her appointment had clearly denied equality of status and opportunity to other MLAs who were otherwise eligible to be appointed as Chief Minister, he said.

He submitted that Article 164 (4) should contain the words ``any person eligible to contest an election'' instead of ``any person'' and till such an amendment was brought about by Parliament, this Article which had been misused, was liable to be misused in future also. The writ petition needed consideration for an authoritative pronouncement of law, he said and sought a declaration that Article 164 (4) was unconstitutional and void.

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