Kiran Bedi VS Narayanasamy: Centre Upholds the Superiority of LG
Will the war of words between Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy and LG Kiran Bedi escalate after MHA’s clarification?
In the midst of the tussle between Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and Puducherry Lieutenant General Kiran Bedi – a BJP appointee – a Ministry of Home Affairs’ clarification has weighed in Bedi’s favour. It has upheld her recent decisions that were seen as ‘extra constitutional’ by the Congress-led state government.
The letter of clarification, dated 16 June 2017 and released to media on 24 June, gives a point-by-point rebuttal to questions raised by the CM in February this year. It justifies the LG’s actions under specific sections of the Rules of Business of the Government of Pondicherry, 1963. To a question of whether the LG has powers to dispose of business on a daily basis, when it is in fact the primary responsibility of the concerned minister, the Ministry has said in its letter:
Equally so there is Rule 21(5) under which the Lt Governor can call for the papers relating to any case.
The rules enacted by the government of India on 22 June 1963 have specified the duties and responsibilities for the Chief Minister and LG, with respect to the Union Territory of Puducherry – that includes dealing with situations when there is a difference of opinion between the Administrator (LG) and Council (cabinet ministers).
In response to the question of whether the LG can call for an entire file from a department, or only papers from the secretary of the concerned department, the letter states, “Even though the word used in Rule 21(5) is ‘papers’ but the same would be wide enough to include the entire file as well.”
The state government, in the past, has alleged that the delay in clearing files has hampered the progress of some ambitious projects and has dealt a blow to the welfare schemes, a charge that has been refuted by Bedi, with the LG’s office issuing a statement on 4 June saying that 1,300 files have been cleared in the first year of her tenure.
A Repeat of Delhi?
The clash between the democratically elected chief minister and administrative head of Puducherry reminds one of the bitter feud between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former LG Najeeb Jung. On 4 August 2016, the Delhi High Court upheld the supremacy of the LG, by stating that, “AAP government’s contention that the LG is bound to act on the advice of Council of Ministers is without any substance and cannot be accepted.” Challenging the Delhi High Court verdict recognising the LG as the administrative head of the national capital territory, the AAP government is awaiting hearing in the Supreme Court.
“One can draw parallels between Delhi and Puducherry as there were instances when former LG Najeeb Jung would bypass the CM. Discretionary powers will create possibilities of friction between the LG and elected representative”, says KK Kailash, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Hyderabad.
Friction is Inevitable
Will the war of sorts, evident in Puducherry, meet a similar ‘judicial’ fate? The state Assembly passed a resolution on 16 June that aims to amend the 1963 law, thereby curbing the powers of the Lieutenant Governor. With the LG being backed by the Centre, Puducherry is sure to witness another meltdown between the CM and administrative head of the state.
By according superiority to the LG for discharging executive functions, the apprehension is whether governance will become a casualty.
A letter by the Ministry states:
Lt Governor would have executive powers wider than the discretion which is exercised by a Governor of a State. In fact, it has been held that the Lt Governor, while exercising such powers [...] acts in his own judgement without seeking the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers
The Quint contacted Chief Minister V Narayanasamy for a reaction over the phone, but he refused to comment on the matter.
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