Insights into Editorial: Power shift: on tussle between Puducherry Lt. Governor and Chief Minister
Government of Puducherry is a democratically elected body that governs the Union Territory of Puducherry, India.
It is headed by the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry as its nominal head, with a democratically elected Chief Minister as real head of the executive.
Referring to the provisions of the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, the judge said Section 44 of the Act states that there shall be a Council of Ministers in each Union Territory to aid and advice the Administrator who shall act in his/her discretion only in so far as any special responsibilities were concerned.
Context: Madras High Court Curbs L-G role in Puducherry administration:
The Madras High Court ruled that the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) of Puducherry could not interfere with the day-to-day administration of the Union Territory when an elected government was in place.
The court said incessant interference from the L-G would amount to running a “parallel government.”
The judge made it clear that government secretaries were bound to take instructions from the Ministers and the Council of Ministers, headed by the Chief Minister.
The Madras High Court pointed out the significant differences in the powers conferred on the legislatures of Puducherry and Delhi under Articles 239A and 239AA of the Constitution.
The secretaries are not empowered to issue orders on their own or upon the instructions of the Administrator.
Legal basis for the powers of LG:
Puducherry is a union territory which is governed by Article 239A of the Constitution.
NCT of Delhi, meanwhile, is governed by Article 239AA of the Constitution which imposes restrictions on the law-making power of the elected legislature of Delhi.
According to Article 239AA, the elected legislature of NCT of Delhi cannot enact laws relating to entries 1,2 and 18 of the state list.
It means that Delhi’s elected government cannot make laws concerning public order, police and land rights. This is not the case with Puducherry.
According to 239A which governs the administration of Puducherry, the administrator (LG) does not have power to promulgate any ordinance in Puducherry.
Even if LG does it, it will not stand if the Legislative Assembly decides to disapprove it. This emphasizes the supremacy of the legislature over the administrator in Puducherry, unlike the restrictions on the government of NCT Delhi.
According to Article 240, even the rights of the President of India is curtailed to the point that he/she cannot issue ordinances to suit their whims and fancies.
Difference in status between Delhi and Puducherry:
The Puducherry legislature is the creation of a parliamentary law, based on an enabling provision in Article 239A of the Constitution, whereas the NCT legislature has been created by the Constitution itself under Article 239AA.
The Supreme Court had described the NCT as sui generis. At the same time, the NCT Assembly is limited in the extent of its legislative powers, as it is barred from dealing with the subjects of public order, police and land.
However, looking at the Business Rules as well as other statutory provisions on Puducherry, it has sought to give greater credence to the concept of a representative government.
In view of the Constitution Bench judgment on Delhi, court has differed with another Madras High Court decision of 2018 in which the LG’s power to act irrespective of the Cabinet’s advice was upheld.
However, since the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, does not specify the ‘special responsibilities’ in relation to which the L-G could apply his/her discretion.
It is the bounden duty of the Administrator and the Council of Ministers to avoid logjam and facilitate the smooth functioning of the government in public interest, leaving the political differences apart.
Section 44 of the Union Territories Act, 1963, states that there shall be a Council of Ministers in each Union Territory to aid and advice the Administrator who shall act in his/her discretion only insofar as any special responsibilities were concerned.
Another issue that was flagged with the court was the practice of Kiran Bedi giving instructions on WhatsApp groups to officials.
The judge disapproved of the alleged practice of government officials being made part of social media groups and Kiran Bedi giving instructions to them.
According to service rules, they were bound to use only authorised medium of communication when it came to issues relating to administration.
Although the existence of a Governor was debated in the Constituent Assembly and critics exist for his role but, the Governor and Lt Governor play a pivotal role in running the constitutional machinery of states and Union Territories especially during a crisis situation.
The Central government as well as the Administrator should be true to the concept of democratic principles. Otherwise, the constitutional scheme of the country of being democratic and republic would be defeated.
Governor needs to play his/her role effectively to maintain Constitutional provisions and bring peace and stability in the region.