New Delhi: Since 2020, the Tamil Nadu governor’s office received 181 bills, nine of which, including the anti-NEET one, were reserved for consideration of the President. This was told to the Supreme Court Monday by Attorney General R. Venkataramani, who on behalf of Governor R. N. Ravi denied that the latter was sitting on crucial bills.
Titled ‘Factual note on behalf of the governor’, the 35-page document details each bill sent to the governor’s office. It was placed before a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, which is hearing the Tamil Nadu government’s petition accusing Ravi of slow-paced action on bills unanimously passed by the state legislative assembly.
In Ravi’s defence, the note submitted that out of 181 bills, the governor’s office gave assent to 152, while the state itself withdrew five. The bills that were withdrawn included the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies (Third Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Anna University Bill, 2020, the Anna University (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Tamil Nadu Trusts Bill, 2020. The last bill was forwarded to the governor in January 2021 and was withdrawn a month later, whereas the other three were dispatched in September 2020 and withdrawn a year-and-a-half later.
The fifth bill to be withdrawn was the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022. This was submitted to the governor’s office in January 2022, but withdrawn a year later in April 2023.
Meanwhile, nine bills were sent to the President for consideration. Under the second proviso of Article 200, a bill is usually referred to the President when the Governor opines that it would “upon becoming law, diminish the powers of the High Court to such an extent that it jeopardises the role that the Constitution has assigned to that Court”.
Notably, under Article 254 of the Constitution, the governor can also reserve a bill for the President’s consideration if it is on a subject enumerated in the concurrent list of the Constitution — on which both the Centre and State can frame laws — and is repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or an existing law with respect to that matter.
ThePrint takes a look at these nine bills and what they entail. Two of them — The Tamil Nadu Apartment Ownership Bill 2022, and The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Tamil Nadu Amendment Bill, 2022 — got Presidential assent following which they were notified as formal laws in Tamil Nadu.
Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Bill 2021
The most contentious bill that is pending President’s assent is the Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Bill 2021, which intends to counter the central common admission test for undergraduate and post-graduate medical courses, or NEET. Originally submitted to the governor’s office in September 2021, the file was returned to the state government on 1 February, 2022. The latter, however, re-submitted the bill to the governor’s office on 8 February, 2022.
Two months later, on 22 April, 2022, the governor referred the bill to the President’s office through the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. This bill awaits the President’s approval.
The Chikkaiah Naicker College, Erode (Transfer and Vesting) Bill 2022
The second bill — The Chikkaiah Naicker College, Erode (Transfer and Vesting) Bill 2022 — sent to the central home ministry on 6 May 2022, concerns vesting the private college’s management with the state government.
Prior to clearing this bill, the state assembly had approved the government’s move to take over the college under the Tamil Nadu Private Colleges (Regulation) Act, 1976 that empowers the state to do so. This was done following reports of financial irregularities in maladministration in the college. This takeover is usually for a period of two years, which may be extended up to 10.
The transfer and vesting bill cleared aims to vest the college’s control with the state permanently.
The Tamil Nadu Apartment Ownership Bill 2022
The governor also chose to refer The Tamil Nadu Apartment Ownership Bill 2022 to the President on 18 July 2022, two months after the state sent it to him for his assent. Granted assent in December 2022, the bill, now a law, allows an apartment complex to be demolished and reconstructed if two-thirds of its flat owners ask for it.
The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Amendment Bill, 2022
Similarly, The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Tamil Nadu Amendment Bill, 2022, received by the governor’s office on 27 October 2022, was forwarded to the President on 30 December same year. Cleared on 21 June, 2023, this law prohibits hookah bars in the state and prescribes a jail term of three years and fine, which may extend up to Rs 50,000, in case of a violation.
The Private Colleges (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2022 and the Indian Stamp (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Bill, 2023
In early 2023, two bills from Tamil Nadu were referred to the President — The Tamil Nadu Private Colleges (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2022, in January 2023 and the Indian Stamp (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Bill, 2023, in May 2023. While the first is to validate the continued takeover of the management of the Chikkaiah Naicker College, the second revises the stamp duty for some instruments in the central law — The Indian Stamp Act.
The Chennai University (Amendment) Bill 2023 and The Tamil Nadu Siddha Medical University Bill
Among the 12 bills that mounted the stalemate between the Tamil Nadu government and governor, two have been reserved for a reference to the President. The Chennai University (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and The Tamil Nadu Siddha Medical University Bill were forwarded to the central home ministry on 10 November. The move came the same day the top court questioned the governor’s role in sitting over the crucial bills.
The Chennai University (Amendment) Bill, 2023 seeks to dilute the governor’s power as a chancellor of the University, and, instead, empower the state government to appoint the vice-chancellor of University of Madras. The second bill proposes establishment of a new university for Siddha, Ayurveda, Unani, Yoga, Naturopathy and Homeopathy in the state.
The Chit Funds (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Bill 2023 and The Tamil Nadu Silkworm Seed (Production, Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill, 2023
Two recently drafted bills — The Chit Funds (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Bill 2023 and The Tamil Nadu Silkworm Seed (Production, Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill, 2023 — too have been held back by the governor for a reference to the President. Received on 12 October and forwarded on 7 November, the Chit Fund bill empowers the government to delegate power to subordinate officers or authorities to hear appeals filed under the law. The second law, which is yet to be processed for reference, is for the regulation of the production, supply and distribution of silkworm seed in the state.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)