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Will examine all bills on merit, says Punjab Guv as AAP govt moves SC

Chandigarh: With the AAP government in Punjab approaching the Supreme Court against Governor Banwarilal Purohit withholding approval to three bills, the governor on Sunday informed the chief minister that he will examine all the bills on merit in the larger interest of the welfare of people of the state.

In a letter to Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, the governor noted that he had given his nod to 22 bills out of 27 passed by the Assembly after Mann took charge and said he will convey his decision on the rest of the bills separately in the coming days.

The AAP government had, on October 20, cut short its two-day Punjab Assembly session and Mann had announced that his government will approach the Supreme Court against the governor withholding his approval to the three bills which were slated to be tabled in the House.

Official sources said the state government has moved the Supreme Court against the governor but the matter is yet to be listed for hearing. In his latest missive, Purohit wrote, that ‘serious doubts’ have been raised about the proprietary and constitutionality of the summoning of the Punjab assembly as well as the continuation of the session “in violation of the various provisions of Constitution of India as well as the rules of procedure and conduct of business by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.”

“… still I have, in consultation with all the concerned and in the larger interest of the welfare of the people of Punjab, decided to examine all the bills on merits as well as in terms of various provisions of the Constitution of India,” he said.

“I will convey to you my decision on each and every bill separately in the coming days,” said Purohit.

The governor further wrote, “I may point out that after your taking over as Chief Minister of Punjab, I have already given assent to 22 bills out of 27 bills passed by Punjab Vidhan Sabha.”

“The rest of the five bills passed by the Assembly as well as three money bills sent by the Government recently are under my consideration and I will take a decision after due consideration on them in the coming days. I will convey my decision to you accordingly,” said Purohit.

The ongoing tussle between the Raj Bhavan and the Bhagwant Mann government had flared up after Purohit withheld his approval to the three Bills – the Punjab Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Punjab Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Indian Stamp (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2023.

Purohit had earlier stated that the October 20-21 session – being projected as an extension of the Budget session – was ‘bound to be illegal’ and any business conducted during it ‘unlawful’.

Before the House was adjourned sine die on October 20, Mann had slammed Purohit for raising questions over the legality of the session called by his government.

It is the second time in the year that the AAP government is approaching the SC. Earlier, the Punjab government had moved the SC after it accused the governor of not “reverting” to the cabinet’s decision of summoning the budget session in March.

In his previous communication on October 19, Purohit had asked the Bhagwant Mann government to call either the Monsoon or Winter session and also said that if the Mann government continued with the “patently illegal session” (October 20-21), he would be compelled to consider an appropriate course of action including to report the matter to the President.

The Raj Bhavan had earlier called the similar special sitting in June as ‘patently illegal’.

Purohit’s response had come after the chief minister urged him to sign the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023, aimed at ensuring a free-to-air telecast of ‘Gurbani’ from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

It was one of the four bills passed during the June 19-20 session.

The three other Bills were the Punjab Universities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Punjab Affiliated Colleges (Security of Service) Amendment Bill, 2023.

While the Punjab Universities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was for replacing the governor with the chief minister as the chancellor of state-run universities, the Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was to pave the way to bring about an independent mechanism for selection and appointment of suitable persons to the Director General of Police post.

These bills are still with the governor awaiting his approval.

(Published 29 October 2023, 14:29 IST)

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