Jharkhand governor needs to clear the air

Over the past week-and-a-half, political uncertainty has roiled Jharkhand, triggered by a sealed envelope sent from Nirvachan Sadan in central Delhi to Raj Bhavan in Ranchi. Inside the envelope is the Election Commission of India (ECI)’s recommendation on whether chief minister Hemant Soren should be disqualified as a Member of the Legislative Assembly because of pending corruption allegations. The poll watchdog was asked for its opinion by governor Ramesh Bais after the Bharatiya Janata Party demanded Mr Soren be disqualified for allegedly violating office of profit guidelines by getting a mining licence in his name. The letter was sent on August 25. There has been no communication from Raj Bhavan on the contents since, even as speculation, leaks, and rumours stir instability. Lawmakers have been packed off from Ranchi to Chhattisgarh, some brought back and sent back again. The government also sought to prove its strength on the floor of the assembly, and won it, amid an Opposition boycott. Governance appears to be hamstrung by the crisis.

Article 192 of the Constitution, which deals with disqualification of state legislators, says that the question will be referred to the governor who “shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion”. Therefore, the governor has no deadline by when he has to make the recommendation public or finalise his decision. Mr Bais has told reporters that he is taking legal advice and will decide soon. But to keep recommendations under wraps hurts the legitimacy of the government, encourages speculation, and is not good for the health of democracy. For the sake of propriety, the governor must clear the air at the earliest.

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