In a pivotal move marking the end of a two-year political standoff, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has signed the Kerala Public Health Bill, 2022 into law. This decision follows a Supreme Court judgment stressing the obligation of Governors to operate within the confines established by the State legislature, thus halting the exercise of undue veto power over Bills.
Continuing Disputes and Pending Bills
Despite this breakthrough, the tension between Raj Bhavan and the Kerala government continues to simmer. Governor Khan has shelved seven other Bills for Presidential consideration. Notably, this move does not have a constitutional deadline, thereby extending the legal and political impasse.
The significant Bills put on hold include the Kerala Lok Ayukta Amendment Bill and the Kerala University Amendment Bill. The former has drawn Khan's opposition due to the clause allowing the political executive to scrutinize the Lok Ayukta's corruption findings. The latter aims to replace the Governor as the Chancellor of State Universities with academically distinguished individuals.
Protest Plans and Land Assignment Bill
The CPI(M) has planned a protest in December at Raj Bhavan, advocating for Governor Khan's assent to the Kerala Government Land Assignment (Amendment) Bill, 2023. This Bill is key for settler farmers in Idukki as it seeks to legalize certain land use violations. However, Raj Bhavan has requested additional clarifications from the government on this matter.
Supreme Court Intervention
The Supreme Court has previously intervened in this ongoing tension, serving a notice to both the Centre and the Kerala Governor in response to the state's plea, which alleged inordinate delay by Raj Bhavan in clearing legislation.
The gubernatorial assent to the Public Health Bill may be a small step towards resolving the discord, but the governmental and legal battle between Raj Bhavan and the Kerala government is far from over.