Punjab CM thinks he is an uncrowned king, but he has to abide by the Constitution: Governor Purohit


Over the last one and a half years, since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power in Punjab, the tiff between Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has been evident, In an exclusive interview with NEInfothe Governor claimed that the problem was that the Punjab Chief Minister “does not know the Constitution… and believes that he is the uncrowned king of the State and can do whatever he likes”. Accusing the CM of not giving proper responses to his queries about corruption and various anomalies in governance, the Governor said this indicated that “something hanky panky” seemed to be taking place. If the situation continued, he warned that he could invoke Article 356, which provides for President’s Rule.

The discord between you and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has been on public display for a long time. What is behind it?

The Governor is a constitutional authority appointed by the President of India, entrusted with a duty to ensure just, fair, and honest administration. So, it is my duty to see that there’s a corruption-free and transparent government in the State.

I have received several complaints surrounding corruption and anomalies, and public-centric issues surrounding which, from time to time, I have been seeking information from Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann through letters. But I am not getting satisfactory replies.

If the State is being governed as per the Constitution, and it is corruption-free and transparent, then I have no problem. But the problem here is that he (the CM) doesn’t know the Constitution, he is not aware of the rules and maybe there’s no one to make him understand it. He is flying high in the sky asserting that 3.5 crore people have given him the mandate and he is now the uncrowned king and can do whatever he likes. But it doesn’t happen like that, there’s a Constitution, and he has to abide by it.

The Governor has a right to seek information from the Chief Minister in terms of Article 167 (b) on matters relating to the administration of the affairs of the State and proposals for legislation. Once such information is sought, the Chief Minister is duty-bound to furnish it… Not furnishing the information that was sought by the Governor would be plainly in dereliction of the Constitutional duty which is imposed on the Chief Minister in terms of Article 167 (b), and this has been held by the Supreme Court as well recently. So, he is duty-bound to reply to my queries and letters.

How is a Governor in a position to carry out his duties unless he has before him certain information? Most people don’t understand the role of the Governor. A perception has been held that the Governor should not interfere, but my job is strictly to follow the rules and the Constitution. If I don’t fulfill my responsibility, I’ll feel guilty, my conscience will not permit it.

You recently cautioned the CM about “the failure of the constitutional mechanism” in the State, against the backdrop of him not responding to your letters. But Mr. Mann recently stated that he has replied to several letters. So then, what is the problem?

He gave responses to a few letters, but they didn’t have any meaning, because the answers to most of them were unsatisfactory. For example, I asked him to respond to complaints about malpractices and illegalities with respect to the selection of school principals by the AAP government for sending them to Singapore for training. To this, he replied he and his government are answerable to three crore Punjabis. Now tell me, is this even a reply? Most of his replies serve no purpose.

I wrote around 22 letters, and he replied to about 20, but almost 15 replies are as good as no replies; no specific answers have been given. I am getting all the replies legally examined. If these things keep going on, then constitutional crises will develop. If he doesn’t give me proper replies as per the Constitution, and if this continues, then I’ll have to take a decision to send a report to the President of India under Article 356 about the failure of the constitutional mechanism in the State. , seeking advice that what should be done under such circumstances.

It is my duty to see that there’s a pro-people and efficient government running in the State. I’ll be failing in my duty if I don’t ask anything from the government on serious public-centric issues that come to my knowledge.

According to you, why are proper replies not being given to your letters?

If one follows total transparency in work, then there’s no need to hide anything. I follow this principle so I don’t have any problem sharing anything. But if someone is not transparent in the work then they would need to harp on lies or hide the truth. Either they (the government) have not followed the norms or there seems to be something hanky panky.

For example, in the case of choosing University Vice-Chancellors or selection of the teachers going abroad. Why do they need to hide the details? What’s the problem in sharing the details of expenses or the selection process if nothing wrong has been done by them? Till date, no satisfactory reply has been given by the government.

Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann termed your warning (about President’s Rule under Article 365) as an ‘insult to Punjabis’. How do you react to that?

There was no threat from my side. I told him clearly that for the last one and a half years I have written letters on various complaints of corruption, rampant drug abuse, and illegal mining, etc., seeking his reply, but he is not willing to reply. It means it’s an insult to the post of Governor. The Governor has the power. In fact, the language and utterances by the Chief Minister against me, terming me as “vella (idle)” and describing my letters as “love letters” are not befitting to the post of Chief Minister. As Governor, I am a constitutional authority. I can’t compromise my integrity, and I am not going to be cowed down.

The CM has accused you of conspiring to seize power, and attempting to topple this democratically elected government…

Why would I need power? I don’t need anything. I am a simple man. But yes, come what may the government must run as per the Constitution. I have taken an oath to protect the Constitution and that’s what I am doing. There should be complete transparency and corruption-free government. But what is happening is completely opposite here in Punjab. A couple of days ago, one of their (AAP) MLAs has accused the police of corruption; this is something very serious.

You have been highlighting the issue of drug menace and illegal sand mining in Punjab. Do you think the AAP government is not doing enough to stop these problems?

Everything can be stopped if a strong will is there. Drug menace and illegal mining can also be stopped. People are protesting against the drug menace. I have received reports from various agencies regarding the rampant availability and abuse of drugs in Punjab. I have been traveling to border districts of Punjab to get first-hand information. During my visits, I meet officials, village heads (sarpanches) and other prominent people of the district. The feedback I got is distressing, everyone is worried about the drug menace.

The villagers have been telling me that the drug menace can’t flourish unless the police and mafias are hand in glove. It can’t happen. Where are drugs coming from, why drugs can’t be stopped? When I travel, they (AAP) people get worried; the reason is that they have a fear of getting exposed. I’ll again travel in the next few days to Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, and Fazilka districts to take stock of the situation on the ground.

The AAP government recently dissolved all panchayats across the State, then withdrew it; later, two IAS officers were suspended for the ‘technically flawed’ decision. Do you think an attempt is being made to pass the buck?

The day the AAP government declared that it would withdraw the notification, a day earlier, I had written to the Chief Minister, asking him whether the government’s action of dissolving the panchayats was per the Constitution. The term of the panchayats was not completed and the move was illegal. The very next day, the government withdrew the notification. Now, an attempt is being made to pass the buck (by suspending the IAS officers). You (the CM) signed it, and approved it, which means you are a party to it equally, your wrong doing is not less than those who have been punished. If they have done something wrong, then you (CM) have also done wrong. Without applying the mind, how can one sign? After all, he is ruling a State.


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