Relief for Kiran Bedi as SC restrains Puducherry government

Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy with supporters at the victory march. T. Singaravelou   | Photo Credit: T_Singaravelou

In a relief for Puducherry Lieutenant Governor (LG) Kiran Bedi, a Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court on Monday restrained the Congress government of the Union Territory from implementing any decision involving financial implications or transfer of officials.

The order by a Bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and M.R. Shah was based on an urgent plea by the Union of India and Ms. Bedi’s office for clarity on the issue of control over bureaucrats in the wake of a turf war between the LG and the Chief Minister.

The Bench further issued notice to the elected government and allowed the Cabinet to meet on June 7, but said that decisions with serious financial implications and transfers cannot be implemented till the next date of hearing on June 21.


Kapil Sibal, appearing for the elected government, objected that the direction by the court to temporarily halt Cabinet decisions was tantamount to a virtual stay on the Madras High Court decision, which had curbed the LG’s powers to interfere in the day-to-day administration of the Union Territory, especially when an elected government was in place. But the court did not relent.

The Central authorities said the High Court decision had brought the “administrative machinery of Puducherry to an impasse” and required urgent rectification.

‘Greater discretionary power’

Their plea said the Puducherry LG enjoyed “greater discretionary power” than the Delhi LG. The Puducherry LG had a “special responsibility towards the Union Territory of Puducherry and is under the over-arching control of the President.”

The plea said the High Court did not understand the true import of the Government of Union Territory Act of 1963 and Rules of Business of the Government of Puducherry of 1963.


The plea said the officers were being threatened with contempt action and this was leading to “administrative chaos.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the LG, recently told the Supreme Court that governance in the Union Territory had come to a standstill after the High Court decision in April held that ‘incessant’ interference from the LG would amount to running a “parallel government.”

The High Court had said, “The Central government as well as the Administrator [term used in the Constitution to refer to the LG] 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 150-page judgment distinguished the significant differences in the powers conferred on the legislatures of Puducherry and Delhi under Articles 239A and 239AA of the Constitution.

Unlike Article 239AA, which imposes several restrictions on the legislature of Delhi, no such restrictions were imposed explicitly on Puducherry under Article 239A, the High Court held. “The above Article symbolises the supremacy of the Legislature above the Administrator in case of the Union Territory of Puducherry,” it said.

The judgment had 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 High Court also disapproved of the alleged practice of government officials being part of social media groups through which the LG was issuing instructions to them for redressal of public grievances, and reminded them that as per rules, they were bound to use only an authorised medium of communication when it came to issues related to administration.

The judgment 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 LG. It held that those communications had been issued without reference to the constitutional provisions and other laws.

The High Court had 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 Centre.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 1:45:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/sc-issues-notice-to-puducherry-cm-in-power-tussle-matter/article27442882.ece

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