Supreme Court: Governors can’t delay bills indefinitely veto legislative action: Basics Explained

November 10 verdict on the Punjab Government’s petition against Governor Banwarilal Purohit sitting over Bills passed by the state assembly was released on 23rd November 2023.

The Supreme Court has ruled that he can’t veto a Bill enacted by the legislative assembly. The governor is entrusted with certain constitutional powers but cannot be used to thwart the normal course of lawmaking by the State Legislatures said the Court.

Interpreting Article 200 of the Constitution, the Bench said “The concluding phrase “shall not withhold assent therefrom” is a clear indicator that the exercise of the power under the first proviso is relatable to the withholding of the assent by the Governor to the Bill in the first instance. That is why in the concluding part, the first proviso indicates that upon the passing of the Bill by the legislature either with or without amendments, the Governor shall not withhold assent.

“The substantive part of Article 200 empowers the Governor to withhold assent to the Bill. In such an event, the Governor must mandatorily follow the course of action which is indicated in the first proviso of communicating to the State Legislature “as soon as possible” a message warranting the reconsideration of the Bill. The expression “as soon as possible” is significant.

“It conveys a constitutional imperative of expedition. Failure to take a call and keeping a Bill duly passed for indeterminate periods is a course of action inconsistent with that expression. Constitutional language is not surplusage,” the Bench said. The Bench said, “The power to withhold assent under the substantive part of Article 200 must be read together with the consequential course of action to be adopted by the Governor under the first proviso.

“The role which is ascribed by the first proviso to the Governor is recommendatory in nature and it does not bind the state legislature,” the Bench clarified.


The Governor is the head of a state just like the President is the head of the republic.

One of the silences in the Constitution is in Article 200 which does not prescribe a timeline for the Governor to provide assent to Bills sent by the Legislative Assembly. This has been used to advantage by the Governors of various Opposition-ruled States to obfuscate the mandate of democratically elected governments.

The Governor is the nominal head of a state, while the Chief Minister is the executive head. Lieutenant governors are appointed in the Union Territories of Delhi, Andaman Nicobar Island, and Puducherry. All other union territories are governed by an Administrative Head. The only exception is Chandigarh. The governor of Punjab is also the lieutenant governor of Chandigarh. The first woman to become a Governor of a state in India was Sarojini Naidu. She was the Governor of Uttar Pradesh from 15 August 1947 till her demise on 2 March 1949.

Article 153 of the Constitution requires that there shall be a Governor for each State. One person can be appointed as Governor for two or more States.

Article 154 vests the executive power of the State in the Governor.

Article 155 says that “The Governor of a State shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal”.

Article 156 provides that “The Governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the President”. The term of the Governor is prescribed as five years.

The only qualifications for appointment as Governor are that he should be a citizen of India and must have completed the age of thirty-five years.

According to Article 200, when a Bill, passed by the Legislature of a State, is presented to the Governor, he has four options

  • He assents to the Bill
  • He withholds assent
  • He reserves the Bill for the consideration of the President (The proviso says that if the Bill presented to him derogates, in the opinion of Governor, from the powers of the High Court so as to endanger the position which the High court is designed to fill by the Constitution, he is bound to reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President)
  • He returns the Bill to the Legislature for reconsideration. (If it is not a money bill). If the state legislature again passes the Bill with or without amendments, a Governor has to give his assent to the Bill.


Absolute Veto: It refers to the power of the President to withhold his assent to a bill passed by the Parliament. The bill then ends and does not become an act.

  • Suspensive Veto: The President uses a suspensive veto when he returns the bill to the Indian Parliament for its reconsideration.

Pocket Veto: The bill is kept pending by the President for an indefinite period when he exercises his pocket veto.

The president of India has absolute veto over state bills when it is reserved for him by the governor of a state.

  • National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC): It recommended that there should be a time-limit, say a period of six months, within which the Governor should take a decision whether to grant assent or to reserve a Bill for consideration of the President.
  • Sarkaria Commission: It suggested that delay from the side of the Governor in granting assent can be avoided by streamlining the existing procedures, by making prior consultation with the Governor at the stage of the drafting of the Bill itself, and by prescribing time-limits for its disposal.

The governor, while exercising its power under Art 200,  should bear in mind that the Constitution is founded on the fundamental principles of parliamentary democracy and division of powers.


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