The Governor of Kerala, Arif Mohammed Khan, has stirred controversy by not providing assent to several bills passed by the state assembly. He justified his decision by stating he is not a “rubber stamp” and wants to ensure the bills align with constitutional principles before approving them. This has led to criticism from opposition parties and legal questions about the extent of gubernatorial power.
Analysis for a Layman:
The Governor is supposed to sign bills passed by the state legislature to make them into laws. However, Kerala’s Governor Khan is refusing to sign some bills because he believes they may be unconstitutional or give too much control to the government over universities. The opposition parties are criticizing him for holding back bills for almost two years. The Supreme Court has said governors cannot indefinitely delay bills and must give valid reasons if they don’t sign them. This sets up a legal battle over the scope of the Governor’s veto power versus the legislature’s right to pass bills.
Governor Khan’s actions, while controversial, bring up important questions about checks and balances between state institutions. On the one hand, his skepticism could be obstructionist if he is overly strict in his review. However, governors do have a duty to ensure laws adhere to constitutional principles before lending their approval. An impartial analysis may find merit in some of Khan’s objections regarding university autonomy and financial procedures. This episode highlights gaps in clearly codifying these approval protocols. It presents an opportunity to re-examine the norms guiding such oversight mechanisms between the executive and legislative branches.
Impact on Retail Investors:
This dispute centered on administrative procedures is unlikely to directly impact stock prices or most retail investors in the short term. In the longer term, if repeated clashes between the Kerala government and Governor sap business confidence or government effectiveness, it could modestly dampen growth prospects for Kerala’s consumer economy. However, these effects would likely be marginal for most diversified portfolios. Tail risks could emerge if acute political instability severely impacted policymaking. But most investors may be best served by monitoring the situation without overadjusting their strategies for what remains largely an institutional power struggle.
Impact on Industries:
Major export industries concentrated around Kerala such as tourism, food processing and agribusiness are unlikely to be significantly affected by this news. However, prolonged uncertainty could modestly hamper investor sentiment, especially for small and medium sized enterprises reliant on local governance and policy support. Educational institutions and related technology startups connected to the debated university bills may see this as a credit negative if autonomy decreases. But systemic impacts appear limited given Kerala’s broader business climate remains unchanged. Industries positioned to benefit include legal and political consultancies involved in navigating these disputes.
Long Term Benefits and Negatives:
In the longer term, clarifying the ambiguities in the functional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches could strengthen Kerala’s institutional framework. However, repeated confrontations also risk eroding business confidence in political stability. The current government may succeed in exerting greater control over educational institutions but at the cost of academic independence. For investors, updated protocols balancing oversight with flexibility could bolster predictability. But sustained one-upmanship between rival power centers poses headwinds.
Short Term Benefits and Negatives:
In the near term, investors are unlikely to see major portfolio impacts. Consumers may share some uncertainty over this high-profile inter-governmental friction. Educational institutions face more imminent fallout from the university bills as greater political influence gets baked into operations. The greatest beneficiary in the short term is the legal industry as both sides seem poised to continue the fight in court. Beyond direct participants, there appears limited upside or downside for most neutral observers.
Companies that Could Gain:
Educational technology firms that can navigate new regulatory environments (BYJU’s, Emeritus, upGrad); Law firms and consultancies (Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, Khaitan & Co, PwC); Private universities appealing to students seeking alternatives (Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, VIT University).
Companies that Could Lose:
State universities facing administration overhaul (University of Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi University); Small and medium enterprises in affected export industries (Kitex Garments, Zea Maize, V-Guard Industries); Startups needing policy stability (ION Energy, Chargebee, Freight Tiger).
This dispute spotlights the complexity of India’s system of governance with codified tensions between competing power centers. While suboptimal for streamlined policymaking, it reinforces institutional checks against overreach by any one branch. The case may land in India’s Supreme Court – which could provide valuable precedent on the extent of gubernatorial discretion.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s refusal to clear certain bills passed by the state legislature underscores gaps governing such oversight authority. While likely born of institutional friction rather than ideological differences, the resultant uncertainty could modestly hamper business sentiment. But most diversified investors need not overreact given Kerala’s still promising long-term growth.
Press Trust of India. “I am Not a Rubber Stamp: Kerala Guv on Holding Back Certain Bills.” The Economic Times of India, 1 Dec. 2023, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/i-am-not-a-rubber-stamp-kerala-guv-on-holding-back-certain-bills/articleshow/95851008.cms. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.