Daily Answer Writing
09 July 2021

Q) The constitution any person to be the chief minister of a state provided that they must be become the member of the state legislature within six months of their appointment. Does this break the democratic principle? Justify your answer with valid reasons (150 Words)

Source: <https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/should-only-elected-legislators-be-eligible-for-chief-ministership/article35223517.ece>

GS 2: Legislature

Approach Answer:

Introduction: Article 163 of the constitution allows the governor of the state to appoint any citizen as the chief minister. However there if such a person fails to become a part of a state legislature within six month then according to Article 164(4) of the constitution would cease to be the chief minister thereafter. Recently Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat had to resign due to this limitation. The current CM of West Bengal too is not a member of state legislature. Similarly, in the past UP's current chief minister was appointed as CM when he was a member of Lok Sabha.

 

It might be against democratic principle:

              • Election is the centerpiece of democracy: If an unelected person is allowed to sit at the helm it goes against the democratic principle.

              • Question of Legitimacy: If an unelected person is head of the elected members of the house.

              • Conflict of Interest if holding two positions: If a person is both in the Union as well as the state then there is a conflict of interest, For example a person can vote in the Parliament and yet serve the interest of the state.

              • Constitutional Crisis: It can lead to a constitutional crisis upon the expiration of the six month period, if the CM remains unelected. Especially as Section 151A of the RPA, 1951 if only one year is left of a House, a by-election may not be held, or if the situation is not conducive for election. For example both COVID-19 situation and one year limitation clause applies in the case of Uttarakhand.

              • Risk of reappointment: A minister in Punjab Tej Pratap Singh was re-appointed as a minster without holding an election. This was later rejected by the Supreme court.

 

However there are adequate safeguards:

              • CM or a PM proves majority in the house: Upon election to the house the  leader of the house, i.e. CM has to prove their majority on the floor of the house.

              • Governor cannot appoint anyone at free will: The appointment of CM and the council of ministers is done as per the guidelines set by the SR Bommai case, i.e. they can appoint only a person supported by a party in majority.

              • A person has to resign from other houses: constitution provides that if a person is member of two houses in union or in state, they have to decide about which seat they would ultimately hold within 14 days in case of union legislature and for state legislature as per the State's law.

              • There is no compulsion on EC to not hold an election - thus constitutional crisis is always avoidable: In Tej Pratap Singh Case, the Supreme court held that EC can hold an election even if less then one year is remaining for the next bye election.

             

Conclusion: India is a parliamentary Democracy, in which the people do not elect their de facto executive. All elections to the executive are thus indirect. In that case any person with majority support of the house can be appointed as the head of the government who then have to prove their majority on the floor of the house subsequently. Thus in such a practice democratic principle is not broken.

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