Withholding Presidential Assent of State Bills

GS-2 Mains 

Question : What are the implications and challenges surrounding the President’s withholding of assent to state bills, as seen in Kerala’s recent case, and what measures could be taken to ensure a balance of power between the Governor and the state government in this regard?


  • Kerala challenges the President’s withholding assent to several Bills passed by the state legislature.


  • The President withheld assent to three Kerala University related Bills out of seven sent for approval in 2023.
  • Kerala argues these Bills fall under the State List (legislative powers of the state) and shouldn’t have been referred to the President.

Governor’s Powers over State Bills (Article 200)

  • Four options:
    • Grant assent (bill becomes law).
    • Withhold assent (bill fails).
    • Return the bill for reconsideration (except Money Bills).
    • Reserve the bill for President’s consideration.

Reserving a Bill for the President

  • Mandatory reservation: Bill endangering the state High Court’s position.
  • Discretionary reservation (Governor’s judgment):
    • Unconstitutional (ultra vires).
    • Against national interest.
    • Grave national importance.
    • Compulsory property acquisition.

Sarkaria Commission Recommendations

  • Reservation for President’s consideration should be a rare practice, used only for potential unconstitutionality.
  • Governor should act on ministerial advice (except in exceptional cases).
  • President should dispose of reserved bills within six months.
  • Reasons for withholding assent should be communicated to the state government (if possible).

The Way Forward

  • Governor’s power to reserve bills is crucial for ensuring state laws comply with the Constitution.
  • Unilateral actions by the Governor against ministerial advice need checks and balances.
  • Amending the Constitution or a Supreme Court verdict could address potential misuse of gubernatorial discretion.

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