'L-G can’t interfere in affairs of Puducherry Govt'

Madras High Court. PTI file photo

Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy on Tuesday scored a major legal victory when the Madras High Court ruled that Lt Governor and Administrator of the Union Territory, Kiran Bedi, cannot interfere in the “day to day affairs” of the Government.
 
Justice R Mahadevan of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court also set aside two clarification orders issued by the Centre in 2017 on the powers enjoyed by the Lieutenant Governor in Puducherry. The order came on a petition filed by Congress legislator in Puducherry, K Lakshminarayanan, challenging two orders issued on January 27 and June 16, 2017 by the Centre in respect of the constitutional position relating to the Union Territory of Puducherry which maintained that the L-G had powers to interfere in the functioning of government.
 
“The Administrator cannot interfere in the day to day affairs of the Government. The decision taken by the Council of Ministers and the Chief Minister is binding on the Secretaries and other officials. The Central Government, as well as the Administrator, should be true to the concept of democratic principles,” Justice Mahadevan said in his 151-page detailed order.
 
The judgement comes three months after Narayanasamy held a dharna outside the Raj Nivas in Puducherry for five days alleging interference by Bedi in the functioning of the Government. Narayanasamy and Bedi have been locked in a bitter tussle over who holds more power in the Union Territory, but the Centre had firmly backed the L-G. While Bedi claimed she had all powers to interfere in governance, the Chief Minister had been maintaining otherwise.
 
Noting that the Administrator has no exclusive authority to run the administration in derogation of the Constitutional Principles and the Parliamentary Laws governing the issue, the court said the legislative body of the Union Territory of Puducherry enjoys similar power to that of a “State” though not a state.
 
“The authority of the Administrator remains intact with regard to the exercise of discretion under certain circumstances when the assembly is not functioning or when a reference is bonafide required and in cases where he exercises judicial or quasi-judicial functions,” the order said.
 
Reacting to the judgement, Bedi said she will make her stand clear after going through the judgement. "We are still in the Model Code of Conduct of the election period. Files which require the Lieutenant Governor's approval such as service matters, of promotions, appointments, disciplinary matters and financial sanctions for grants in aid are being received and being examined and cleared on merits of each case. The weekly disposal is also placed on record as was the earlier practice," she said in a statement.
 
The court said whenever, the assent of the Administrator is required, in case of difference of opinion, a constructive discussion has to be held with the Council of Ministers, the court said, adding that in case, the difference still exists, the Administrator can withhold the same only for a brief period and refer the same to the President of India at the earliest.
 
“The decision of the President is final in those matters. It is made clear that the use of the word “any” occurring under Section 44 of the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 does not mean “everything” and the Administrator shall be guided by the preceding conclusions. As held by the Apex Court, the authorities must be conscious of their constitutional duties and must act in discussion and deliberation,” the court said.
 
The court also pointed out that the Administrator is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers in matters where the Legislative Assembly is competent to enact laws though she is empowered to differ with the views of the Council based on some rationale which raises a fundamental issue regarding the action of the Government.
 
“A legitimate and warranted policy decision of the Council after deliberation is expected not to be interfered with. The proposal is to be mooted by the appropriate minister through the Chief Minister under the Schedule as enumerated under Rules 9 and 10 of the Rules of Business of the Government of Pondicherry, 1963,” the Judge said.
 
The scope of such difference can utmost end only in a reference to the President or the Central Government, as the case may be, under Rule 56 of the Rules of Business of the Government of Pondicherry, 1963 and by no stretch of imagination or interpretation, the provisions enable the Administrator to reject any Bill.

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