Puducherry CM goes on appeal in free rice distribution case

First Bench directs Centre and L-G to respond

Published - June 05, 2020 12:40 am IST - CHENNAI

The Madras High Court on Thursday sought the response of the Centre to a writ appeal preferred by Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy against the dismissal of his writ petition for permitting distribution of free rice as against Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi’s decision to disburse cash to ration cardholders.

First Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy ordered notices returnable by July 23 to the Centre, L-G as well as the Assembly Secretary. The order was passed after Additional Solicitor General (ASG) G. Rajagopalan sought time to file a detailed counter.

The ASG told the Bench that the judgement under challenge before it was passed by a single judge on February 21. However, now, the Centre had permitted distribution of rice to the family cardholders in Puducherry for three months in view of COVID-19. Hence the appeal could be heard after two months, he said.

On the other hand, senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan, representing the Chief Minister, recalled that, on March 11 this year, another Bench comprising the Chief Justice and Justice Subramonium Prasad (since transferred to the Delhi High Court) had delivered an elaborate verdict on the role of the L-G and the elected government in Puducherry.

In that verdict, it was stated that “the Central Government, through the Home Ministry and under orders of the President of India, exercises a referral role to umpire a decision in the event the Administrator (L-G) makes a reference as per the 1963 Rules (of Business of the Government of Puducherry) for its decision.

“Such a decision should rest on a sound foundation based on objective material and a rational subjective satisfaction recording a firm opinion.” However, on the present dispute between the elected government and the L-G over distribution of rice or cash to ration cardholders, the Centre had passed a single line cryptic order, the counsel claimed.

When the Chief Justice wanted to know whether reasons had not been assigned by the Centre for having agreed with the L-G’s decision to go for cash transfer, the ASG told the court that the entire file related to the issue was placed before the single judge and he was satisfied with the decision taken by the Centre on the issue.

He also said, all material facts related to the case shall be placed before the court during the next hearing.

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