Reacting strongly to Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi’s decision to ‘dismiss’ arrested Minister V Senthilbalaji and subsequently keeping it in “abeyance”, Chief Minister M K Stalin on Friday rejected the Governor’s action.
“Your unconstitutional communication dismissing my Minister without my advice is void ab initio and non-est in law and hence has been disregarded,” Stalin said in a six-page letter to Ravi. “Though your letters require only an outright disregard...the aid and advice of the Chief Minister and the Cabinet was neither sought nor given for both letters,” he said.
Referring to the Governor’s late night communication that he was keeping the dismissal in abeyance on the advice of the Home Minister to seek the opinion of the Attorney General, Stalin said, “This shows that you had not even taken a legal opinion before such an important decision.” It showed the Governor “acted in haste with scant regard to the Constitution of India.”
Pointing out that he and his government enjoyed the confidence of the people, he said high constitutional authorities like Governor while dealing with an elected government must act with dignity and not stoop to levelling veiled unsubstantiated threats about “breakdown of constitutional machinery”.
He argued that Senthilbalaji was not convicted by any court and was only facing charges and even the chargesheet was not filed by the Enforcement Directorate, the Chief Minister said therefore he attracted no disqualification to continue in the Cabinet as per law.
Stalin said even the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had “left it to the wisdom of the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister to decide whether a person should continue as a Minister or not in their Cabinet. Therefore, merely because an agency has commenced investigation against a person, he or she does not become legally incapacitated to continue as a Minister.”
He was dismissive of the Governor’s stand that Senthilbalaji may interfere with the investigation and said it was unfounded and baseless.
He reiterated that under Article 164(1), the Governor appoints and removes ministers only on the advice of the Chief Minister. “The Governor has no power to decide who should or should not be part of the Cabinet. That is the sole prerogative of the Chief Minister,” he said.
Stalin also questioned the “inexplicable silence” of the Governor “on my Government’s request for sanctions to investigate/ prosecute former Ministers and public servants for offences committed during the previous AIADMK Government, which have been languishing in your office for months together.” Even the request of CBI for sanction of prosecution in the Gutka case has not been acted upon by you. “In fact, these selective actions expose not only your unhealthy bias but also the real intent behind such dual standards adopted by you,” he charged.
In so far as your allegations on usage of intemperate language, “I wish to inform that the Government of Tamil Nadu has always been according due respect and regard to you and your office. We have always been pleasant, courteous and respectful towards you in line with our Tamil culture. However, that does not mean we have to abide by unconstitutional directives issued by you,” Stalin said.