Governor objects to disrespecting national offices

Satheesan says Raj Bhavan not above criticism, CPI(M) wants Governor to clarify on DLitt

Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has taken exception to making national institutions and national symbols such as the offices of the President and Governors, a subject of commonplace discussion in public domain.

Mr. Khan’s comment came against the backdrop of the tide of news reports triggered by the “simmering dispute” between Raj Bhavan and the government over university appointments and honorary degrees grants.

DLitt proposal

More immediately, the "conflict" related to a purported "Raj Bhavan proposal" to award an Honorary DLitt to President Ram Nath Kovind. The dispute had prompted Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala to ask the government to clarify whether the Governor had made the recommendation. The BJP had pointedly criticised the government for rejecting the "proposal."

However, Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan appeared to strike a different note. He reiterated that Mr. Khan had acted unlawfully if he had indeed summoned the Vice Chancellor and asked the latter to award an honorary degree to "any person."

Khan clarifies

Speaking to reporters in Kochi, Mr. Khan appeared to suggest that he was well within his rights to make the recommendation. Without going into the details, Mr. Khan said: "As far as me making any recommendation is concerned, if I am the Chancellor and if it is either the university or related matters come within the ambit of the Chancellor."

The Governor requested that everyone, including the media, to exercise discretion in national matters relating to institutions and national symbols.

"Article 15 (1) (a) of the Constitution make it binding on us to respect national institutions and national symbols. The President and the Governor are considered national institutions. Please exercise some discretion. Do not make these offices a subject of discussion,” he said.

Mr. Khan said he found the trend to impinge on national institutions disturbing. Trite discussions about national institutions did not augur well for national dignity and national prestige.

Mr. Satheesan responded that the Governor’s office was not above criticism. “I did not say that the Governor cannot recommend an Honorary DLitt for the President. But it is an abuse of power if the Governor had indeed summoned the Vice Chancellor and made such a demand,” he said.

The university bestowing an Honorary DLitt on the President was not a private matter between the Governor and the Vice Chancellor. It was not a matter to “whisper in the ear of the Vice Chancellor.” There were legal steps.

Ideally, the Governor should have given the proposal to the Vice Chancellor, which the latter would submit before the Senate for consideration.

Mr. Satheesan said the entire controversy was steeped in ambiguity. “The Raj Bhavan has not clarified whether it has made such a demand. There is no clarification from the university. The CPI(M) leadership is silent. But, there is no shortage of news reports quoting anonymous sources,” he said.

CPI(M) stance

CPI(M) State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the government had no say in university matters. The Congress was spreading the rumour that the Governor had recommended an Honorary DLitt for the President. “If so, let the Governor clarify,” he said.

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