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Reasons for frictions between Puducherry CM and LG
Synopsis: Tussle between the Puducherry CM and LG Kiran Bedi is one of the examples of increasing frictions between constitutional functionaries. In today’s article we are listing the causes of frictions between them.
- Recently, Puducherry Chief Minister (CM) V. Narayanasamy staged a three-day protest against Lieutenant Governor (LG) Kiran Bedi.
- The CM accused LG of “functioning in an autocratic manner” and adopting an “obstructionist attitude” in ensuring the progress and welfare of people and asked the Centre for the recall of the Lt Governor.
- Whereas, LG defended herself by stating that the Lt Governor’s secretariat is ensuring just, fair and accessible administration, within the legal limits.
What are the causes of friction between Puducherry LG and CM?
Both have been in friction over issues such as;
- The appointment of the State Election Commissioner, an office critical to holding elections to local bodies in the Union Territory.
- The implementation of direct benefit transfer in the public distribution system using cash, instead of free rice, being given to beneficiaries.
How experts are seeing this issue?
- First, the Assembly elections are likely in April or May. The protest of CM leading the protest against the Lt Governor was seen as an act of political mobilisation.
- Second, experts opine that LG should also take into account the legitimate requirements of an elected government and try to accommodate Mr. Narayanaswamy’s views on important matters such as the free rice scheme.
- Even the Centre itself did not see any benefit in the DBT mode when it decided to give additional food grains (rice or wheat) free of during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now the responsibility lies with the Centre to step in and restore the breakdown of communication between the Lt Governor and the Chief Minister in the interest of smooth administration.
pardoning power of president in india
Context: Recently, US President Donald Trump exercised his powers under the Constitution to pardon Michael Flynn, his former National Security Advisor
What is the extent of the US President’s power to pardon?
- Constitutional right: The President of the US has the constitutional right to pardon or commute sentences related to federal crimes.
- No restriction: The US Supreme Court has held that this power is “granted without limit” and cannot be restricted by Congress.
- Discretionary power: Clemency is a broad executive power, and is discretionary. The President is not answerable for his pardons, and does not have to provide a reason for issuing one.
What are the limitations?
- Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution says all Presidents shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
- The power only applies to federal crimes and not state crimes.
- Those pardoned by the President can still be tried under the laws of individual states.
What is the frequency of usage of pardoning power during different Presidents?
- In 2017, Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of being in contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to stop arresting immigrants solely on the suspicion that they were residing in the US illegally.
- In four years, Trump has granted pardons to 29 people (including Flynn) and 16 commutations.
- President Barack Obama had, during his eight-year tenure, issued 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations.
- The only other President who can be compared with Trump for infrequent use of the power is George H W Bush, who granted 77 clemency requests during his one-term tenure.
- The highest number of clemency grants by a US President (3,796) came during Franklin D Roosevelt’s 12-year tenure, which coincided with World War II.
How Indian President pardons?
- Not discretionary: the President has to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers while deciding mercy pleas. These include Maru Ram vs Union of India in 1980, and Dhananjoy Chatterjee vs State of West Bengal in 1994.
- Article 72: the President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence where the sentence is a sentence of death.
- Article 161: the Governor too has pardoning powers, but these do not extend to death sentences.
- Executive power with defined procedure: The President cannot exercise his power of pardon independent of the government. The mercy plea is forwarded to the Home Ministry, seeking the Cabinet’s advice. The Ministry forwards this to the concerned state government based on the reply, it formulates its advice on behalf of the Council of Ministers.
- Final decision making: Article 74(1) empowers President to return cabinet’s advice for reconsideration once. If the Council of Ministers decides against any change, the President has no option but to accept it.
Kerala’s new 118A law
Context – The Kerala cabinet recommended to the Governor the promulgation of the ordinance to insert Section 118 (A) into the Act.
What is Kerala’s new 118A law?
The new Section 118A has been introduced in the Kerala Police Act, 2011.
According to the new law– The state government recommendation to amend the police act says that if the government finds any media platform including social media producing, publishing or propagating content that could threaten, insult or harm an individual
- The amendment proposes three years in prison and a fine of up to ₹ 10,000 for those found guilty.
- The state officials said this would give law enforcers more teeth to prosecute the guilty, media houses said the law could be used to gag them.
Why the law being criticized?
- Threat to free speech– It is being seen as an attempt to stifle not only dissent but also freedom of speech and expression.
- In 2015, the Supreme Court in the Shreya Singhal case had struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act and Section 118D of the Kerala Police Act, finding both provisions unconstitutionally vague and thus violative of free speech rights. [Article 19].
- Vulnerable to misuse– The law is unspecific and indistinct and can be indiscriminately misused by individuals or even the government and the police.
- Granted the police untrammelled authority– It empower police to suo motu interpret and deal with “offensive” communication and make arrests without a warrant.
- Though the Kerala government claims it is to fight cyber-crimes against women, that has not found any mention in the law either.
What is the way forward?
The amendment would reverse the course of media freedom, muzzle free speech and undermine civil liberties.
- The greatest danger of such legislation is that if the Ordinance is not withdrawn by the Kerala government, it will act as an example to other states to frame similar laws of their own.