Puducherry

Cash transfer to ration cardholders: Madras High Court dismisses Puducherry Chief Minister’s plea

Court holds that V. Narayanasamy could not question the President’s decision concurring with Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, in favour of disbursing cash to ration cardholders.

The Madras High Court on Friday dismissed a writ petition filed by Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy challenging a decision taken by the President concurring with Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, in favour of disbursing cash to ration cardholders instead of supplying them rice as resolved by the Council of Ministers of the Union Territory.

Justice C.V. Karthikeyan held that Mr. Narayanasamy could not question the order of the President, communicated through the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, since as CM he had taken an oath to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution and act in accordance with the Constitution and the law.

Pointing out that the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, empowers the L-G to refer an issue to the President if he/she disagrees with the advice provided by the Council of Ministers, the judge said that the Act specifically states that a decision taken by the President, on such a reference, must be acted upon without posing any question or expecting an answer.

 

“When a decision has been rendered by the President, then further actions must only be according to the decision given by the President. This is binding on the Council of Ministers, which includes the Chief Minister, and also the Lieutenant Governor. All who have taken oath to abide by the provisions of the Constitution are bound by it. It is not for this court to call for explanations from the Ministry of Home Affairs as to what were the supervening circumstances which prevailed upon the President to give a decision that the Direct Benefit Transfer (cash) scheme must be preferred in lieu of distribution of free rice. The immunity guaranteed under the Constitution is sacrosanct,” the judge observed.

He also stated that the court could not go into the merits of the case and give a finding as to whether disbursing cash would be better than distributing rice. “This court, even while exercising its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, can never examine the merits/demerits of two different proposals. That would mean giving up the robe of a judge and wearing the apparel of a Chief Minister/Lieutenant Governor. This court certainly does not want to give up its robe and alternatively wear the apparel of those authorities. Therefore, very consciously, I am not entering into any discussion as to whether supply of free rice is a better option or not,” he said.

Hasty move

Also taking a dig at Ms. Bedi, the judge said that the Supreme Court, while deciding a similar case relating to the Union Territory of Delhi in 2018, observed that the Administrator (referred to as L-G in Puducherry) of an Union Territory must make every effort to resolve a matter of difference with the Cabinet before making a reference to the President. “In this case, very regrettably, it appears that not even a fleeting thought had swept across the mind of the third respondent (L-G) to attempt to make an effort, even a small effort to resolve the matter of difference... with intent to bring about an amicable solution which might have saved the exchequer this costly legal proceeding,” he added.

The judge also made it clear that the Supreme Court had clarified in its 2018 judgment that the administration of Delhi was different from that of Puducherry. Such a stand was also borne out by the Lok Sabha debate which took place when the then Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri moved the 14th Constitution Amendment Bill of 1962 regarding Puducherry, he said.

The Bill was moved after the ratification of the treaty of cession between India and France on August 16, 1962. Article 239A of the Constitution provided for creating a local legislature in Puducherry and it stated that the powers and functions of the elected as well as nominated members of the Assembly would be specified by law. “The law in this case is the Government of Union Territories Act of 1963,” the judge concluded.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 7:36:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/hc-dismisses-puducherry-cms-plea/article30884194.ece

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