Bedi should desist from taking on govt

An unseemly confrontation is developing bet-ween Kiran Bedi, Lt Governor of Puducherry, and the state cabinet headed by Chief Minister V Narayanasamy. Puducherry is a Union Territory with an elected assembly and a representative
government, like Delhi, and unlike five other UTs where assemblies do not exist. The LG of Delhi enjoys a special position which limits the powers of the elected government, as made clear by recent court judgements. In spite of these judgements, the desirability of giving overriding powers to an appointed authority is still a matter of debate. Puducherry, however, has no claim to a special status as the national capital region has, and so the government arrangement there cannot be considered similar to Delhi. But Kiran Bedi thinks she has more powers than governors of states because she is the administrator of a Union Territory. The UTs are directly under the central government for specific historical reasons. That does not mean that the Lt Governor has more powers than the elected government. In that case, there is no need for a government formed on the basis of elections.

Bedi has insisted that she should have the last word on all policy matters. She says her office is not a post office, and that she will have a decisive say in the budget. She also says she may overlook the legislature if it becomes necessary. She has established direct communication lines with bureaucrats through platforms like WhatsApp groups and has ignored the chief minister’s request that ministers should not be bypassed. There is no rationale and justification for her overreach which is against precedent and constitutional norms. The Constitution does not envisage a subordinate role for an elected government even in a UT, and the legislature cannot be reduced to an irrelevant body. It is against basic democratic norms for an LG to claim powers to make or alter the budget. The power to raise revenue and spend it lies entirely with the legislature in a democracy.

It is clear that Bedi is driven by political considerations. It is a Congress-DMK coalition that rules Puducherry, and Bedi’s loyalty is to the central government which chose her for her position. Ideally, it should be to the Constitution, but long years in public service and life have unfortunately not taught her that. Her relationship with the UT government would have been different if it was friendly with the NDA. The
situation in Puducherry is becoming similar to the one that existed in Delhi when Najeeb Jung was the LG there. Bedi should desist from her course which upsets the balance of powers envisaged by the Constitution.

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