The Governor of the State of Kerala, Arif Mohamed Khan today responded to the allegation by retired Justice Rohinton Nariman that he was not an "independent functionary".

While speaking to Prabhu Chawla at the ThinkEdu Conclave in Chennai, the Governor alleged that Justice Rohinton Nariman had a conflict of interest while speaking on the subject since his father Senior Advocate Fali Sam Nariman and his juniors had received more than ₹ 40 lakhs from Kerala government for giving opinion on the same issue.

Last month, Justice Nariman while delivering a lecture in Mumbai had said that he is waiting for the day when the Supreme Court will hold that it is only independent functionaries who should fill the offices of Governors and "not the kind of people we find today, like we have in Kerala, for example". (read report)

“…I really don’t think you have heard or read the speech carefully. His whole anger was directed at me. He was not even talking about the Chancellor. He was just showing his deep anger against me…Most of it was about me. He did not mention the Punjab Governor, he did not mention Tamil Nadu Governor. All three cases are pending there (Supreme Court). He was unhappy with me. I wish he had told the audience what I have here with me (while showing a document-Gazette notification) and I will give it to you…”, the Governor said when asked about Justice Nariman's remarks.

He then read from a document indicating that money was given to Fali S. Nariman by the Kerala Government for his opinion in the case. “The Advocate General of Kerala has requested the government vide reference so and so…to sanction ₹ 30 lakh to be paid to Shri Fali S. Nariman, Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court, 9 Lakh 90 thousand to Subhash Sharma his Junior, 4 Lakh to Shri Zafir Ahmed again his junior and ₹3 Lakh to Shri Vinod K Anand his clerk”, he read.

Governor Arif Mohamed Khan said that the amount was paid in relation to the same issue that Justice Rohinton Nariman spoke about. "He had not appeared. Only for giving opinion. I wish he had informed his audience that there is a conflict of interest when he was speaking against me. Can anybody in this hall imagine of approaching the Supreme Court if he has to pay this fat amount to the Advocate only for giving opinion, not even to appear in the Court", the Governor said.

"The father is receiving the money and son is blasting the Governor for having not allowed a situation where that opinion can help the Kerala government”, he added further.

“Sir, if somebody from my family is paid such huge amount and without mentioning that fact, I am lambasting somebody in my public lecture, is it even in accordance with the principles of Natural Justice", the Governor asked.

"The bills about which they have gone to the Court, there must be many lawyers sitting here, though the bills which have been passed by the Assembly- the purpose is to remove the Governor as the Chancellor and give the authority to the Government to appoint Chancellors to each of university. Now, you will incur some expenditure on the office of the Chancellor and if you incur some expenditure, then there is a constitutional provision and that bill will be called a ‘money bill’. And if you want to pass a money bill you need prior approval of the Governor. In order to curtail that, they have passed on the responsibility to meet the expenditure to the Universities. In my opinion, those bills are money bills, and in no way I can approve them…”, the Governor continued to say.

"I do not know if has read the file. I do not know whether he knows the objection that I have. Yet he has chosen to lambast me. But this paper shows there is a conflict of interest. His father and his juniors have been paid ₹ 40 lakhs by the Kerala Government", Governor Arif Mohamed Khan added.

During the lecture in December 2023, Justice Nariman had said that since there are many constitutional protections available for the Governors, only independent persons should be appointed to that post. "Because he has two very important functions in his own discretion, which is apart from various other functions. One is what I just told you about, how he assents to bills. The other is equally important since he has to send a report under Article 356 to the Centre if there is a constitutional breakdown in the state. Now if you have a Governor who happens to be part of your political party, who has just been kicked up for no other reason but that he should be somehow rewarded, then obviously you are not going to get an independent assessment under either Article 356 or under Article 200. So the scheme qua Governors is also fraught with a lot of difficulties", he had said.