​​​​1. Some Raj Bhavans are on the war path: The Governor must be mindful of being a friend and a guide to his government, more so in Opposition-ruled States

Context: Recent media reports about the confrontation between the Governors and the State governments, in Maharashtra and Kerala, have turned the spotlight on the rather delicate relationship between the constitutional head of the State and the elected government.

  1. In Maharashtra, the Governor refused to accept the date of election of the Speaker recommended by the State government. Consequently, the Assembly could not elect the Speaker.
  2. In Kerala, the State Governor having reappointed the Vice Chancellor of Kannur University in accordance with the law, made an allegation against the Kerala government that he was under pressure from the Government to reappoint the Vice Chancellor. The Governor confessed that he had done the wrong thing by yielding to governmental pressure. He has added that he does not want to remain the Chancellor any more, though he holds this position in an ex-officio capacity which means that he would have to remain the Chancellor as long as he is the Governor. 
  3. Non-acceptance of the advice of the Council of Ministers too has been witnessed in Rajasthan as well as Maharashtra.
  4. The Governor levelling allegations against his own government is not a first-time development. In West Bengal this has been a regular feature.

Position of the Governor from the Past:

  1. In the colonial era, the Governor was the absolute ruler of the province who was answerable ultimately to His Majesty, the King.
  2. In constituent assembly, there were members in the Assembly who wanted the Governor to be as powerful as the colonial-era Governors.
  3. Though B.R. Ambedkar was clear that the Governor should only be a constitutional head and the executive power should vest entirely in the elected government, he promoted the idea of vesting certain discretionary powers in the Governor. In this respect he was guided by the thinking that the State governments are in subordination to the Union government and, therefore, the Governor should be given discretionary powers to ensure that they act so.

Discretionary powers of the governor

  1. Governor who emerged from the Constituent Assembly was one with certain discretionary powers prescribed by or under the Constitution unlike the President of India who has not been given any such powers.
  2. Further, Article 163 (Article 143 in the draft Constitution) became a ‘blind reproduction of Section 50 of the Government of India Act 1935’ (H.V. Kamath). This exact reproduction has, to a great extent, introduced a vagueness about the actual powers of the Governor vis-à-vis the elected government in democratic India which was corrected only with the Supreme Court of India stating the law in unambiguous terms in Shamsher Singh (1974).
  3. From Shamsher Singh to Nabam Rebia (2016) the top court declared that the Governor can, in the exercise of executive power of the state, act only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers “…save in a few well-known exceptional situations”.

The Maharashtra case

  1. The Governor’s refusal to accept the date of election of the Speaker goes against the principles of constitutional government.
  2. No constitutional role in election of speaker: Under Article 178, election of the speaker is exclusively the job of the House.
  3. It is only the House rule which says that the Governor shall fix the date.  Under the procedure followed in all Assemblies, the government fixes the date and conveys it to the Secretary of the Assembly who forwards it to the office of the Governor for his signature. After the date is formally approved by the Governor — which he is duty bound to do — the members are informed about it.
  4. Possibility of the change in rule: If the Governor stands in the way of the election, the only way open to the House is to amend that particular rule which empowers the Governor to fix the date. It can provide that the Secretary on receiving the date from the government shall notify the members of the same.
  5. But it must be said that it could be for the first time in the history of free India that a Governor has refused to fix the date of election of the Speaker and, consequently, the election could not be held.
  6. The Maharashtra Assembly is now without a Speaker being in office.

The Kerala Case:

  1. The story so far: There was a suggestion from the State government routed through the Pro Chancellor who is the Minister for Higher Education for the reappointment of the incumbent Vice Chancellor. The Governor being the ex-officio Chancellor of the university and the appointing authority, accepted the suggestion and reappointed him. After some time, the Governor went public with a serious allegation that he had signed the order of appointment under pressure from the Government and that he had done the wrong thing by reappointing the Vice Chancellor under pressure.
  2. Provision under University act:  an incumbent Vice Chancellor is eligible for reappointment. Since the Act does not lay down any specific procedure for reappointment, the Chancellor was right in accepting the suggestion or the recommendation made from the Government.
  3. The governor was in no limitation to accept or reject the suggestion: In fact, he or she can accept suggestions from any person including the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. The point worth noting here is that the Governor as Chancellor is not required to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers in the matter of appointment of Vice Chancellor and others in the university. He can act absolutely independently. He could also have rejected the suggestion from the Government.
  4. The Confusion: Therefore, it is baffling why he chose to go public and level serious allegations against the Government and incriminate himself in the process. Adding to the confusion, the Governor has divested himself of the ex-officio charge of Chancellor and declared that he will not be functioning as Chancellor. Needless to say, one cannot relinquish a charge which he holds in an ex-officio capacity unless he leaves his substantive post.

Conclusion/Way forward:

  1. The Governor is a high constitutional authority.
  2. He needs to function within the four walls of the Constitution and be a friend, philosopher and guide to his government.
  3. The Constitution does not allow him to be a parallel government; nor does it make him personally responsible for his actions as Governor.
  4. Wise words of Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava, a conscientious member of the Constituent Assembly: “He (Governor) will be a man above party and he will look at the minister and government from a detached stand point”. Detachment is the essence of India’s ancient culture. But Pandit Thakur Das’s voice has ended up as a voice in the wilderness.

2. The Light Combat Aircraft programme: What is the LCA development project? What other fighter jet aircraft programmes are being envisaged?

News: According to the Chief Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), R Madhavan, HAL expects to deliver all Final Operational Clearance (FOC) variant aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2022 pending some systems from Israel, while the LCA-MK1A is expected to take flight in June this year.

  • There is another 20 to 24 months of testing after which deliveries would begin with manufacturing activities going parallel to the testing.

About LCA Tejas:

  • The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-Tejas was conceptualised in the year 1984, and the first flight of the LCA technology demonstrator took place in January 2001. It  was christened as ‘Tejas’ by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in May 2003
  • It single engine 4.5 generation multi-role fighter jet(MRCA).
  • In all, 123 LCA aircraft of various configurations are on order so far.

Current status of the LCA programme:

  • LCA achieved Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) in December 2013 and FOC in February 2019.
  • Earlier Contracts: The IAF had earlier signed two contracts with HAL, for 20 IOC configuration aircraft including four IOC trainers on March 31, 2006 and for 20 FOC configuration aircraft including four FOC trainers on December 23, 2010.
  • Delays: Both the deliveries have been delayed due to delays in the certification process.
    • The first IOC fighter aircraft was delivered in 2016 and the first LCA squadron No. 45 “Flying Daggers” in the IAF was formed in July 2016 with two aircraft.
    • The first squadron is now complete and the second LCA squadron No. 18 ‘Flying Bullets’ was operationalised in May 2020.
  • New Contracts: The Defence Ministry signed a ₹48,000 crore deal with HAL to supply 83 LCA-Mk1A to the IAF in Feb 2021. This includes – 73 LCA Tejas Mk-1A fighter aircraft and 10 LCA Mk-1 trainer aircraft at the cost of ₹45,696 crore along with design and development of infrastructure sanctions worth ₹1,202 crore.
  • The MK-1A will have over 40 modifications over the MK1 variant including some major ones like:
    • A new Electronic Warfare system,
    • Advanced Electronically Scanning Array (AESA) radar,
    • Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles and
    • Network warfare system software(Electronic Warfare (EW)) Suite including Software Defined Radio (SDR).
    • Air to Air Refuelling (AAR) 
  • The LCA-MK2, a larger aircraft:
    • It has a more capable engine is expected to roll out by year end or early 2023 following which it would take a year for its first flight.
    • Significant capability enhancement to the LCA programme featuring new technologies:
      • Ability to carry heavy stand off weapons like Scalp, Crystal Maze and Spice-2000.
      • It can also carry significantly higher payload, 6,500kg compared to 3,500kg by the LCA.

Cost of LCA development programme:

  • The Government had originally sanctioned ₹2,188 crore for Full Scale Engineering Development (FSED) —Phase-I programme to design and develop two Technology Demonstrators (TDs), and ₹5,777.56 crore for FSED —Phase-II Programme.
  • The objectives of Phase-II are:
    • Fabrication of three Prototype Vehicles (PVs),
    • Establishment of production facility at HAL for production of eight aircraft per year and
    • Manufacturing and delivery of eight Limited Series Production (LSP) aircraft.
  • On the overall project cost, the Government informed Parliament in March 2020 that a total of ₹11,096 crore has been spent till date on the indigenous LCA and the Kaveri jet engine (now shelved) development programmes.
  • Of the total amount, ₹9,063.96 crore was spent on LCA and ₹2,032 crore on the Kaveri Engine.

Way forward:

  • As per the contract, HAL has to deliver the first three MK1A aircraft to IAF in 2024 followed by 16 aircraft per year for the next five years, according to the Defence Ministry.
    • To ramp up production, HAL has already set up two additional assembly lines which are operational. Some back end activities are also being finished at the moment, according to HAL.
    • The indigenous content in LCA is currently about 52% and HAL said it is looking at ways to increase it to 65%.
  • An ambitious fifth generation fighter aircraft – Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), and a new Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) to operate from the Navy’s aircraft carriers are being developed by the DRDO and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).
  • The AMCA is envisaged as a 25 tonne aircraft with internal carriage of 1,500kg of payload and 5,500kg external payload with 6,500kg of internal fuel with the roll out planned in 2024 and first flight planned in 2025, according to ADA officials.
  • The TEDBF is being designed based on lessons learnt from the Naval LCA programme and the first flight is planned in 2026. In addition to supplying to the IAF, HAL is aggressively pitching its helicopters and Tejas to countries in South East Asia and West Asia and LCA is in the contest in Malaysia. Stating that the price is competitive, Mr. Madhavan had earlier stated that each LCA MK1A jet would cost ₹309 crore.


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