The Madras High Court, on March 11, 2020 has set aside a single judge’s order which had held Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi cannot interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the elected government in the union territory.
This brings us to the questions regarding the relationship between the elected representative and administrator appointed by the President. In this article, we will explain the below:
- What are the constitutional provisions related to administration of Union Territories?
- What is the present issue?
- What is the recent High court verdict?
- What does the Rules of Business of the Government of Puducherry, 1963 say about the relationship of Lieutenant Governor and the elected government of Puducherry?
- Way forward
What are the constitutional provisions related to administration of Union Territories?
- Articles 239 to 241 in Part VIII of the Constitution deal with the union territories. Even though all the union territories belong to one category, there is no uniformity in their administrative system.
- Every union territory is administered by the President acting through an administrator appointed by him.
- An administrator of a union territory is an agent of the President and not head of state like a governor.
- At present, it is Lieutenant Governor in the case of Delhi, Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Administrator in the case of Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep. The President can also appoint the governor of a state as the administrator of an adjoining union territory.
- The Union Territories of Puducherry (in 1963) and Delhi (in 1992) are provided with a legislative assembly and a council of ministers headed by a chief minister.
What is the present issue?
- Bedi and the Congress government in Puducherry headed by Narayanasamy have been on the loggerheads over several issues. Narayanasamy had accused Kiran Bedi of working on orders of the Centre to disrupt the functioning of his government.
- Kiran Bedi had denied all allegations levelled against her and claimed that she had been functioning in terms of the powers conferred on her under the Government of Union Territories Act of 1963.
- Appeals were filed by the Union Government and the Lt Governor challenging the order passed on a petition filed by Congress legislator in Puducherry, K Lakshminarayanan.
- The petition had challenged two orders issued by the Centre in 2017 that maintained that the L-G had powers to interfere in the functioning of government.
What is the recent High court’s verdict?
- The Madras High Court order verdict had come on a writ petition filed by Puducherry Congress MLA Lakshminarayanan in 2017 questioning the Lieutenant Governor’s powers to interfere in day-to-day administration of the union territory despite the presence of a council of ministers.
- Madras High Court counseled Puducherry Chief Minister and Lieutenant Governor to “work in unison and not in the division” while setting aside a single bench’s order (April 30, 2019) that the L-G cannot “interfere in the day to day affairs” of the Government.
- Quashing the April 30, 2019, judgment of a single judge (Justice R Mahadevan of the Madurai Bench), the bench said the Centre was at liberty to take appropriate steps in the event of a reference being made to it.
- The court said, “For the time being, there is no such law which may equate or put them at par, except for the areas for which the Constitution itself provides that the legislatures of the Union Territories shall be empowered to discharge such functions that are at par with the State Legislatures. The job of the Court is to define the law and not to create a status which otherwise is not enjoyed by the Union Territory.”
- The Bench further said that, “The judgment of the learned Single Judge does also reflect a tension between constitutionalism and the sentiments of popular democracy, but it should not be lost sight of that every form of governance draws its legitimacy from the Constitution.”
- The Division Bench went citing allied observations in this respect in the Supreme Court’s verdict in State (NCT of Delhi) vs. Union of India and another, and held that, “This is how one can fulfill the goal of cooperative federalism while upholding constitutional supremacy.”
What do the Rules of Business of the Government of Puducherry, 1963 say about the relationship of Lieutenant Governor and the elected government of Puducherry?
The Division Bench has also found that the Rules of Business of the Government of Puducherry, 1963 were clear on the intertwined roles of the Lieutenant Governor and the elected government of Puducherry.
While functions that are to be transacted with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers by the Administrator (LG) were found in the Chapter III of the Rules, Chapter IV deals with executive functions of the Administrator. A reading of these rules, and relevant Constitutional provisions, has led the Court to find that:
- It is clear that the Administrator has to act on the aid and advice of the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers in respect of the matters which a Legislative Assembly of Union Territory has powers to make laws.
- An exception to this general rule under the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 is in cases where the LG is “is required by or under this Act to act in his discretion or by or under any law to exercise any judicial or quasi-judicial functions”;
- The provisions of the 1963 Act also enjoins that in case of difference of opinion between the Administrator and his Ministers on any matter. The Administrator shall refer it to the President for decision and act according to the decision given thereon by the President.
- A draft bill can be referred by the Administrator prior to its introduction in the legislative assembly.
For the better development and governance of Union Territories, both the elected representative and administrator appointed by the President needs to work in liaison and not in differences. This will help in better Collaboration, cooperation and coordination in the functioning of the administration of the Union Territories.
Source: The Hindu