Madras High Court curbs L-G role in Puducherry administration

“The apex court has clearly held that there is a distinction between the National Capital Territory of Delhi and Puducherry,” the judge said.

Updated - May 01, 2019 12:27 am IST

Published - April 30, 2019 04:58 pm IST - Chennai

Puducherry Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi. File

Puducherry Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi. File

The Madras High Court on Tuesday 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.”

Authoring a 150-page judgement, Justice R. Mahadevan said: “The Central government as well as the Administrator [the term used in the Constitution to refer to the L-G] should be true to the concept of democratic principles. Otherwise, the constitutional scheme of the country of being democratic and republic would be defeated.”

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.

In a 150-page judgement on Tuesday, Justice R. Mahadevan of 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.

In his judgement that held 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. ruled that the powers of the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G), Justice Mahadevan said though Article 239AA imposes several restrictions on the legislature of Delhi, no such restrictions had been imposed explicitly in the case of Puducherry under Article 239A.

“The above Article symbolises the supremacy of the Legislature above the Administrator in case of the Union Territory of Puducherry.”

The judge held that government secretaries of the Puducherry administration were required to report to the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister on all official matters.

“The secretaries are not empowered to issue orders on their own or upon the instructions of the Administrator,” Justice Mahadevan said.

He also disapproved of the alleged practice of government officials being part of social media groups through which the L-G was issuing instructions to them for redress of public grievances and reminded them that as per rules, they were bound to use only authorised medium of communication when it came to issues related to administration.

The judgement was delivered while allowing a petition filed by Congress MLA K. Lakshminarayanan in 2017, and quashing two clarifications issued by the Union Home Ministry that year with regard to the powers of the L-G. The judge held that those communications had been issued without reference to the constitutional provisions and other laws.

Though the Centre had primarily questioned the locus standi of the petitioner to file the case, the judge rejected the objections on the ground that such a writ petition at the instance of an MLA was maintainable.

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.

However, since the Act 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,” the judge said.

He also dealt with the provisions of Rules of Business of the Government of Pondicherry, of 1963, the Delegation of Financial Powers Rules, 1978, the Government of Puducherry (Custody of Public Money) Rules, 2006, the Government of Puducherry Accounting Rules, 2006, and the periodical orders issued by the Central government before deciding the case.

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