Centre defends new procedure for appointment of Puducherry SEC

Bench adjourns the case to February 10

Additional Solicitor-General G. Rajagopalan on Monday told the Madras High Court that the Centre had decided to follow a fair and transparent procedure for appointment of State Election Commissioner (SEC) in Puducherry only because it did not want the SEC to act as a “stooge” of the State government in the Union Territory and instead discharge his or her Constitutional functions without fear or favour.

Appearing before Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha, who were seized of a writ plea filed by Local Administration Minister A. Namassivayam, Mr. Rajagopalan clarified that it was not Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi but the Centre which had constituted a committee headed by the Chief Secretary of the union territory to select the SEC after calling for applications from candidates across the country.

“First of all, whether he (the Minister) can file a writ petition is questionable. How is he aggrieved by the decision? The impugned order is a directive by the Centre to the State government to follow a transparent procedure. The Chief Secretary is not aggrieved by this order. Why has the Minister come to court? It shows he only wants to scuttle the appointment in a transparent manner,” the ASG said.

Apart from questioning the locus standi of the Minister, the ASG wondered, how anyone could have a grievance on the insistence by the Centre to follow a transparent procedure in appointment to a Constitutional office. When the senior judge in the Bench wanted to know whether the appointment to be made through all-India selection would have to go through the Council of Ministers, he replied in the affirmative.

Laid down procedures

Mr. Rajagopalan stated that as per procedures, the Council of Ministers would forward the final name to the L-G who, in turn, would issue the appointment order.

Though the judges insisted that the submission should be put in writing before the court, the ASG said it was not necessary for it since it goes without saying that any selection would pass through the Council of Ministers and finally reach the L-G.

Further, referring to the provisions of the General Clauses Act, the law officer said, it was the Centre which must be construed as the State government in so far as a Union Territory was concerned and therefore the Centre’s decision was binding upon the Council of Ministers. “Otherwise, they will only select their own person and appoint him as the State Election Commissioner without following a transparent process,” he added.

Later, observing that Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad had reserved their verdict on a much larger issue relating to the powers of the L-G compared to that of the elected government in Puducherry, the judges said only that judgment would give a clarity on issues in which the L-G could act independently and matters in which she could act only with aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.

In the present case, though the petitioner had claimed that the Council of Ministers had reportedly appointed a retired Indian Administrative Service officer T.M. Balakrishnan as the SEC that executive order had not been issued by the L-G as required under the law and it had been succeeded by the Centre’s decision to bring in a new procedure for appointment of SEC, the judges pointed out.

“It (executive order) only says By Order. It does not state that it has been issued by the order of the Administrator (a term used in the Constitution to refer to the Lieutenant Governor),” Justice Sathyanarayanan said and adjourned the case to February 10.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 4:07:02 AM |

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