The Double Role of the Indian Governors: Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh 1983–84

  • Douglas V. Verney
Part of the Cambridge Commonwealth Series book series (CAMCOM)


For Canadians, India’s experience since Independence provides a fascinating study.1 Issues and controversies that have occurred in Canada’s long and eventful political history have had their counterpart in modern India.2 Among these controversies has been the role of the Governors (in Canada Lieutenant-Governors) in affairs normally the responsibility of the state or provincial cabinet and legislative assembly. Once the British North American provinces were granted responsible government in 1848 the authority of the Lieutenant-Governors was circumscribed by convention. It is true that their reserve powers were retained in the British North America Act of 1867 and were still being occasionally used until the 1940s. It is also true that despite the Constitution Act of 1982 these powers have remained entrenched in the constitution. However, they are widely assumed to be obsolescent if not obsolete.3


Indian Constitution Responsible Government Indian Governor Double Role Congress Party 
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  1. 2.
    During the Constituent Assembly debates, reference was made to the removal of Canadian Lieutenant-Governors on two occasions by the Government of Canada. This section of the debates was reproduced by the Government of Karnataka in its 1983 white paper The Office of the Governor: Constitutional Position and Political Perversion. This in turn was added to Karnataka’s Memorandum to the Commission on Centre-State Relations. Curiously enough, there is no mention of the removal of Lieutenant-Governors in recent textbooks of constitutional law or political science. The removals occurred in Quebec (1879) and British Columbia (1900) after each Lieutenant-Governor had dismissed a ministry. ‘These two cases of dismissal stand alone and as far as one can tell the federal government never again considered dismissing a Lieutenant-Governor.’ John T. Saywell, The Office of Lieutenant-Governor (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957), 255.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    ‘While a case can be made for the preservation of disallowance as the considered exercise of power in very exceptional circumstances by a careful and responsible federal government, no such case can be made for the reserve powers of the Lieutenant-Governor.’ J. R. Mallory, The Structure of Canadian Government (Toronto: Gage, revised edition, 1984), 370.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    The description of India as ‘quasi-federal’ appears to have originated with K. C. Wheare, Federal Government (London: Oxford University Press, 4th edition, 1964).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    ‘India was to have a President, indirectly elected for a term of five years, who would be a constitutional head of state in the manner of the monarch in England.’ Granville Austin, The Indian Constitution: cornerstone of a nation (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), 116.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    The state visits of the President of India are controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office. See the article ‘The President: a communication gap,’ India Today, June 15, 1985, 30–31. The absence of the Canadian Governor General from the ‘Shamrock Summit’ of the Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, with President Reagan in 1985 and from the opening of Expo 86, when the Prime Minister entertained the Prince and Princess of Wales, has been the occasion for comment in the press. See The Globe and Mail, 9, 10 & 11 June 1986.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    See Austin, The Indian Constitution, 214–5, and B. Shiva Rao, The Framing of India’s Constitution (New Delhi: Indian Institute of Public Administration, 1968), 802–823.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Government of Karnataka, Memorandum to the Commission on Centre-State Relations, January 1985, 19.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    See, for example, T. J. Nossiter, Communism in Kerala (London: Oxford University Press, 1982), chapter 6 and Sarvepalli Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru: a biography (London: Jonathan Cape, 1984), chapter 3.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    See, for example, S. C. Kashyap, The Politics of Defection (Delhi: National, 1969).Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    ‘With the increasing use of this instrument, she was successful in her objectives, but she reduced provincial autonomy to a farce and made the Indian system a case of the pathology of federalism.’ B. D. Dua, President’s Rule in India 1950–1974: a study in crisis politics (New Delhi: Chand, 1979), 402.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Farooq complained that his sister ‘never had much to do with me as she felt that I had taken the crown from her husband’s head.’ M. J. Akbar, The Siege Within: challenges to a nation’s unity (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985), 278.Google Scholar
  12. 22.
    The Task Force on Canadian Unity, set up by the Trudeau government, went so far as to recommend the principle of ‘the equality of status of the central and provincial orders of government’. A Future Together (Hull, Quebec: Canadian Government Publishing Centre, 1979), 125. Note the use of the term ‘orders’ instead of ‘levels’.Google Scholar

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© D. A. Low 1988

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  • Douglas V. Verney

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