Editorial 1: This is an ‘address’ of great constitutional importance


The Governor of Tamil Nadu, Mr R N Ravi, in the customary Governor’s address to Members of the Tamil Nadu Assembly (on January 9, the first session for 2023), skipped an important and politically significant paragraph, which has stirred up a controversy.

The controversial paragraph referred to the Dravidian model of governance which has great political and cultural significance in Tamil Nadu (TN). The present Governor is known to have no sympathy for the concept of a Dravidian model of governance or politics or its rich cultural past.The issue here is not one of the Governor’s personal likes or dislikes of a particular political ideology or a cultural tradition, but whether the constitutional authority can deviate from well-established and mandatory constitutional practices while performing a constitutional function.

Constitutional provision:

  • Article 176 of the Constitution requires the Governor to mandatorily address the Members of legislature at the commencement of the first session of each year and to inform them of the causes of its summons. Clause two says that the legislature will discuss the matters referred to in such an address.
  • The “address” here means the complete address and not a truncated or garbled version. Therefore, what the Governor reads before the legislators is a complete address whose entire contents are to be mandatorily discussed by the legislators in the House.
  • Here, the Constitution gives a specific direction to the House to find time to discuss the contents of the Governor’s address. It is of special significance that the Constitution nowhere else says that the legislature must make rules for the allotment of time to discuss a particular matter other than the address by the Governor under Article 176. This underscores the importance the Constitution attaches to such an address by the Governor.
  • Article 175 says that the Governor may address the legislature and for that purpose require the attendance of the members. The Governor’s address under Article 175 is not a mandatory address unlike under Article 176. Article 175 does not speak about any discussion of the content of such an address; but Article 176 requires a discussion on the matters contained in the Governor’s address.
  • The reason behind the Constitution making such a distinction in two addresses by the same constitutional authority, namely the Governor, to the same Members of the legislature, is that the address under Article 176 contains the policies and programmes of the elected government of the State which is accountable to the legislature. Executive accountability to the elected representatives of the people is the essence of parliamentary democracy.

So, through the address which the Governor is mandated to give at the commencement of the first session of each year, the government informs the legislature of its major legislative programmes for that year, its achievements in the previous year, and a clear outline of its developmental programmes for the future. These programmes and policies of the government are conveyed to the legislature through the Governor. Thus, the address under Article 176 assumes great importance.

Content by the government

  • When the Constitution has accorded such importance to this address, can the Governor ignore it and skip certain paragraphs of the address or add anything of his own? Skipping paragraphs of the address would simply mean that the Governor does not approve or agree with those ideas.
  • Anyone who is familiar with the constitutional system in India knows that the address the Governor gives under Article 176 is the address prepared by the government. It does not contain any of the personal views of the Governor but only the policies and the programmes of the elected government. The government alone is responsible for the content of the address and not the Governor. The Governor cannot change a word on his own.

So, by wilfully not reading certain portions of the address the Governor has gone against the mandate of Article 176. It is another matter if the Governor is not able to read the whole speech because of a ruckus created by Members of the Assembly. But the Governor cannot wilfully skip paragraphs of the address because the Constitution does not permit him to disagree with the matters contained in the address or interpose his own views therein.

Federal discord:

Article 200:

  • Article 200 requires the Governor to either give assent or withhold assent or send the Bill back to the Assembly for reconsideration, in which case if the Assembly passes it again in the same form without any change the Governor has to give assent to it. He can also send the Bill for the consideration of the President in some rare cases.
  • The actions by Governors in some of the Opposition-ruled States have often come under critical scrutiny. Sitting on a Bill passed by the Assembly without exercising any of the options given by the Constitution, and thus frustrating the entire legislative exercise, is clearly against the mandate of the Constitution. The Constitution does not give the Governor the option to sit on a Bill passed by the Assembly.
  • However, some Governors in opposition-ruled states seem to assume that since it does not lay down any time frame for assent to a Bill they can sit on it without exercising any of the options contained in Article 200. This is a gross misreading of the constitutional provision. In Britain it is unconstitutional for the King to withhold assent to a Bill passed by Parliament.

An open challenge now

  • All these problems arise now because of an inexplicable effort to question and challenge long-established constitutional positions. Governors have suddenly become pro active and have begun to openly challenge and criticise Chief Ministers and State governments.
  • Some Governors are even holding press conferences to attack Chief Ministers. Gubernatorial displeasure is being openly expressed. Bills pile up in Raj Bhavans without any decision being taken.
  • From Shamsher Singh (1974) to Nabam Rebia (2016) cases, the Supreme Court has consistently held that Governors can act only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers and cannot exercise any executive powers independently ignoring the elected government.
  • In the Nabam Rebia case, the Court has said “… such a nominee, cannot have an overriding authority, over the representatives of the people, who constitute the House or Houses of the State Legislature (on being duly elected from their respective constituencies) and/or even the executive Government functioning under the Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister as the head.”
B.R. Ambedkar said in the Constituent Assembly: “If the Constitution remains in principle the same, as we intend that it should be, that the Governor should be a purely constitutional Governor, with no power of interference in the administration of the province, ….”Supreme Court had in Shamsher Singh case said, “The Constitution does not aim at providing a parallel administration within the State by allowing the Governor to go against the advice of the Council of Ministers.”


These are voices of wisdom which should be heeded to if we want to preserve the integrity of the system. If constitutional authorities wilfully cross the line and over strain the system, democracy will be in peril.

Editorial 2: Where do Indian cities stand on toxic air?


Four years since the Centre launched the National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP), analysts found that progress has been slow and pollution only incrementally reduced in most cities.

About National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP):

  • Following years of evidence that many Indian cities were among the most polluted in the world, the government launched the NCAP that committed funds as well as set targets for 131 of India’s most polluted cities on in 2019. The 131 cities are called non-attainment cities, as they did not meet the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for the period of 2011-15 under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP).

The pollution target levels:

  • The country’s current, annual average prescribed limits for the two main classes of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) are 40 micrograms/per cubic metre (ug/m3) and 60 micrograms/per cubic metre.
  • The NCAP initially set a target of reducing key air pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 by 20-30% in 2024, taking the pollution levels in 2017 as the base year to improve upon. In September 2022, however, the Centre set a new target of a 40% reduction in particulate matter concentration, but by 2026.
  • To meet these targets, administration of funds is done by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which looks at a city’s PM10 levels — the relatively larger, coarser particles. However, PM2.5, the smaller, more dangerous particles, aren’t monitored as robustly in all cities, mostly due to the lack of equipment.
  • Cities were required to quantify improvement starting from 2020-21, which requires 15% and more reduction in the annual average PM10 concentration and a concurrent increase in “good air” days to at least 200. Anything fewer will be considered ‘low’ and the funding, provided by the Centre via the Environment Ministry, consequently reduced.

Evaluating the effectiveness of NCAP:

  • An analysis of the four-year performance of the NCAP by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), found that only 38 of the 131 cities that were given annual pollution reduction targets under agreements signed between State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs), Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and the Centre managed to meet the targets for FY21-22.
  • The NCAP Tracker, a joint project by two organisations active in air pollution-policy, Climate Trends and Respirer Living Sciences, have been monitoring progress in achieving the 2024 clean air targets set under the NCAP.
  • Among these cities, the national capital of Delhi ranked the most polluted in 2022, with an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 99.71 ug/m3. But Delhi’s PM2.5 levels have improved by over 7% compared to 2019. Most cities in the top 10 most polluted list of 2022 were from the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
  • All three of Bihar’s non-attainment cities, Patna, Muzaffarpur and Gaya, now feature in the top 10 most polluted cities on the basis of PM2.5 levels. Nine of the 10 cities, which were the most polluted in 2019, have reduced their PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations though the levels in these cities remain much higher than CPCB’s annual average safe limits for PM2.5 and PM10.

Current status:

  • India has six large airsheds, some of them shared with Pakistan, between which air pollutants move. While existing measures by the government can reduce particulate matter, significant reduction is possible only if the territories spanning the airsheds implement coordinated policies, says a recent 2022 report by the World Bank.
  • Currently over 60% of South Asians are exposed to an average 35 µg/m3 of PM2.5 annually. In some parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) it spiked to as much as 100 µg/m3 – nearly 20 times the upper limit of 5 µg/m3 recommended by the World Health Organisation, says the World Bank report.

Other measures:

  • With air pollution a seasonal occurrence in north India every winter, particularly in the National Capital Region, Centre and the States surrounding Delhi have taken some legislative and policy measures. One of them is a Supreme Court-mandated Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), which classifies air quality, via an index, into four categories of toxicity:
  1. moderate to poor (201-300)
  2. very poor (301-400)
  3. severe (401-450)
  4. Emergency (450+).
  • When the level of pollution worsens, government actions tend to become more stringent. These range from restrictions on movements of transport trucks to stopping construction activity, closing schools and placing curbs on passenger vehicles.

Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) :

  • Is a statutory authority. It supersedes bodies such as the central and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan. It replaced the erstwhile Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).
  • The 18- member Commission brings together the Centre, states, and other stakeholders on one collaborative platform to combat air pollution in Delhi ncr and adjoining areas.
  • It has exclusive jurisdiction over the NCR, including areas in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, in matters of air pollution, and works along with CPCB and ISRO, apart from the respective state governments.
  • The Commission has the power to impose a fine of up to Rs 1 crore and imprisonment of up to 5 years in case its directions are contravened.


India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries must establish a dialogue on air pollution to tackle it with an ‘airshed approach’. This is how the problem has been tackled in other regions, like ASEAN, Nordic regions, and across China. States need to stop blaming and go for a collaborative approach if they wish to reduce air pollution for their citizens.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *