Saturday, February 11, 2017

TN Governor's inaction

Constitutional purism demands that the Governor call the leader of the majority party to form the government. Sasikala gave a list of 130 MLAs supporting her and sought to be invited to form the government. Panneerselvam could not claim majority support and only sought to withdraw his resignation which had already been accepted. What the governor should have done in this situation is a no-brainer. There is no question that he has violated the letter of the law. By continuing to delay his decision, the governor has only made us believe that something other than simple law is agitating his mind.

Though we are not privy to the conversations of the governor with the two leaders, it is possible to guess that OPS has informed the governor that he was forced to submit his resignation under duress and that many MLAs are kept in captivity by Sasikala. It is also possible that the governor could not discount this argument.

There is obviously a clash between letter of law and ethical consideration in this case. It is not uncommon for letter of law to get diluted by circumstantial evidence to the contrary. Further, coercion (assuming that OPS was indeed coerced  and MLAs are indeed kept in captivity) would have negated Sasikala's democratic rights.

Purpose of law is to deliver justice. If the purist adherence to legal requirements was likely to lead to an unjust solution, the governor would be bound more by ethical requirement than by legal constraint. Of course, it is for the governor to inform the court what really happened , when the matter inevitably gets dragged to the court in case Sasikala does not become the chief minister.

When law and ethics point in the same direction, the end result is justice. When there is a conflict between the two, the decision-maker may play it safe by sticking to the letter of law or may stick his neck out by seeking to prioritise ethics over law. 

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