Immunity to the Governor

Immunity to the Governor


Why in the news?  

Amidst the Lok Sabha Election, West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress government has accused governor CV Ananda Bose of sexual harassment, a claim vehemently denied by him. The Bengal Governor has denied the allegations, calling them “engineered narratives”. Its spotlight is back on Article 361 of the Constitution, which grants immunity to governors against being named as an accused in any criminal case. 

A woman employee of Raj Bhavan since 2019, who lives in the residential quarters at the Governor’s House, has accused Bose of “inappropriately touching” her. The matter came to the fore after she approached the police inside the Governor’s House and alleged that Bose had molested her. 

About Immunity to the Governor: 

Article 361 of the Constitution provides absolute immunity from prosecution for the Governor. Legal actions can only be initiated once the Governor is no longer in office, which occurs through resignation or loss of the President’s confidence. 

Here’s a brief overview of Article 361:

    • Article 361 grants the President and the Governors of the States immunity from legal proceedings during their terms of office.
    • This immunity extends to any criminal proceedings or civil lawsuits brought against them in their capacity during their tenure.
    • However, this immunity is not absolute. Under Article 361(1), the president or a governor can be impeached for violating the Constitution. Also, Article 361(2) stipulates that they can be prosecuted for any criminal offence committed before assuming office after giving a two-month notice.
    •  Article 361(2) also provides that the President or a Governor cannot be arrested or imprisoned during their term of office or when an impeachment motion is pending against them.
    • Civil proceedings can only be initiated against the President or a Governor after giving a two-month notice, as per Article 361(2). 
    • Moreover, the Constitution prohibits prosecuting the Governor. He cannot be named an accused.

Importance of the immunity of the Governors:

  • The immunity ensures that Governors can discharge their duties impartially and independently without fear of legal repercussions or undue influence. This is crucial for maintaining the integrity of their office and upholding the principles of democracy. 
  •  Legal proceedings against a Governor can disrupt the stability and continuity of governance in a state. Immunity helps maintain stability by preventing distractions or interruptions caused by litigation during their tenure.
  • In Rameshwar Prasad v/s Union of India (2006) case, the Supreme Court highlighted the Governors’ complete protection, especially concerning personal conduct. The Supreme Court clarified that governors are not responsible to any court for their constitutional responsibilities and duties.
  • However, Article 361 allows them to focus on their primary responsibilities of promoting the state’s welfare, fostering good governance, and representing the people’s interests without being bogged down by legal battles. 

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Immunity protects the dignity and honour of the office of the Governor by shielding them from potentially damaging legal actions that could tarnish their reputation or undermine public confidence in their ability to serve effectively. Overall, the protection afforded to Governors under Article 361 is essential for ensuring the smooth functioning of the state government, safeguarding the office’s independence, and upholding the principles of democratic governance. 

Mains Practice Question: 

Q. What exceptions exist to the immunities provided under Article 361 of the Indian Constitution? How does Article 361 ensure the dignity of the offices of the President and Governors?

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