Jammu & Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik is reported to have publicly advised terrorists to kill the “corrupt who have robbed their state" instead of Indian security personnel. As it turns out, he was not misquoted. Loose as his words were, they did amount to a proposal of targets for extra-judicial punitive action to be taken by dangerous outlaws. At the rate at which governors have been making such seemingly off-the-cuff statements, it may not attract much attention. It may even vanish under an avalanche of far more pressing news events. But it should not. A governor’s position is not to be taken lightly, especially not if the state is under President’s Rule, and nor are gubernatorial words inconsequential.

The governor’s is the top constitutional post in a state. He or she is vested with the authority to express the Union’s view and act on its behalf. Malik, thus, does not have the liberty to speak of—even if in jest—or suggest anything that would violate Indian laws and provisions of the Constitution. Once a governor is sworn into office, he ceases to operate as a regular politician with party affiliations. His loyalty is pledged to the document by which India runs, and any deviation from it could cause a crisis.

In a state as volatile as Kashmir, adhering to the proper rules of governance is all the more important. That the Constitution be honoured is vital for every citizen’s conviction that all relations between the rulers and the ruled are governed by well-accepted principles. In 2014, to emphazise this point, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the Constitution as his “holy book" of governance. J&K’s governor would be well advised to take a cue from that and set the record straight on his comments.