Goindocal: At the outset, I must mention that Justice Sarkaria Commission which was constituted way back in 1983 had done a commendable job in making very pertinent recommendations regarding Centre – State relations. Having said this, it also needs to be mentioned here that despite the same, not much headway could be achieved in placing Centre – State relations on a better footing.
Therefore, a dire need of constituting yet another Commission on Centre – State relations for sailing out of the troubled waters was felt as a compelling necessity so that the job left half done by the Sarkaria Commission could be completed or at least taken forward to a satisfactory level.
The Punchhi Commission was thus constituted on April 28, 2007 by the UPA government, under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi, which submitted its report on April 20, 2010.
However, it did not receive desired media attention. It must be mentioned here that in finalizing the 1456 page report in seven volumes, the Punchhi Commission took lavish help from the Sarkaria Commission report.
Coming straight to point, the Punchhi commission made very pertinent observations regarding the qualifications, appointment and removal of governors. As for qualifications pertaining to governor, the Punchhi Commission was forthright in suggesting that the nominee should not have participated in active politics at even local level for at least a couple of years prior to his appointment.
It also endorses the Sarkaria Commission recommendation that a governor be an eminent person and must not belong to the State where he is to be posted. While endorsing the recommendation made by the National Commission on Review of Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), it explicitly says that the appointment of governor should be entrusted to a high powered Committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister, speaker of the Lok Sabha and Chief Minister of the concerned State. Besides, the Vice – President too can be involved in the process. It also recommended that the State Chief Minister have a say in the appointment of governor.
Unlike the Sarkaria Commission report, the Punchhi Commission report strongly recommends that a governor should be given a fixed five – year tenure. While strongly deprecating the arbitrary dismissal of governors, it said that the practice of treating governors as political football must stop. Emphasizing that removal of a governor be for a reason related to his discharge of functions , it has proposed provisions for impeachment by the State legislature along the same lines as that of the President by Parliament .
The Punchhi Commission also felt that governors should have the right to sanction prosecution of a minister against the advice of the council of ministers. It also recommended that a Constitutional amendment be brought about to limit the scope of discretionary powers of the governor under Article 163 (2) of the Constitution. At the same breath, it also recommended that governors should have the right to sanction prosecution of a minister against the advice of the council of ministers. However, it wanted that the convention of making them Chancellors of Universities be done away with. It also advocated that governors should not sit on decisions and must decide matters within a four – month period. Punchhi Commission laid down clear guidelines for the appointment of Chief Ministers. While upholding the view that a pre – poll alliance should be treated as one political party, it lays down the order of precedence that ought to be followed by the governor in case of a hung house as follows : (a) Call the group with the largest prepoll alliance commanding the largest number ;( b) The single largest party with support of others; (c ) The post – electoral coalition with all parties joining the government ; and lastly , (d) The post – electoral alliance with some parties joining the government and remaining including independents supporting from outside .
The Punchhi Commission strongly came out in favour of amending Articles 355 and 356 to enable the Centre to bring specific trouble torn areas under its rule for a limited period. To check its misuse by Centre , it has proposed “localizing emergency provisions” under both these Articles contending that localized areas either a district or parts of a district be brought under Governor’s rule instead of the whole State and its duration must not be more than three months. It, however, backs their right to give sanction for the prosecution of ministers against the advise of the State government.
It also recommends that to make an amendment in the Communal Violence Bill to permit deployment of Central forces without the State’s consent for a brief period. It minced no words that State consent should not become a obstacle in deployment of Central forces in a communal conflagration.
To cope with growing security threats, it favours the creation of an overriding structure to maintain internal security along the lines of the US Homeland Security department thus giving more muscles to the National Integration Council (NIC). It also recommends that the NIC should meet at least once a year.
It is the bounden duty of the government now to implement in totality what was recommended by the high powered Punchhi Commission at the earliest so that our nation as a whole stands to benefit in the longer run .