Work in unison and not in division: Madras High Court tells LG & CM

  • Category
    Governance
  • Published
    25th Mar, 2020

Context

Madras High Court counselled Puducherry Chief Minister and Lieutenant Governor to “work in unison and not in the division" while setting aside a single bench’s order that the L-G cannot “interfere in the day to day affairs” of the government.

About

  • Part VIII of the Constitution of India is concerned with the administration of the Union Territories.
  • Administration of Union Territories and Creation of local Legislatures or Council of Ministers or both for certain Union Territories are defined under Article 239 and 239A of Constitution of India 1949.
  • With the inclusion of Kashmir and Ladakh, there are now 28 states and nine Union Territories in the country.
  • Union Territory is an administrative unit controlled and regulated by the Union Government.
  • The constitution head of the state is the Governor but the President acts as the executive head for the UT.
  • Union Territories are ruled directly by the Central Government has a Lieutenant Governor as an administrator, who is the representative of the President of India and appointed by the Central government.

Lieutenant-Governor:

  • Lieutenant-Governor is the head of a Union Territory (UT).
  • Under Article 239 of the Indian Constitution, the President of India occupies, in regard to Union Territories, a position analogous to that of a Governor in a State. 
  • An Administrator is also appointed by the President of India. 
    • UT under LG: Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi, Puducherry, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh
    • UT under administrator: Chandigarh, Dadar and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep

The ruling:

  • A division bench of Chief Justice A P Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad set aside the April 30, 2019 ruling by Justice R Mahadevan of the Madurai Bench which said Lt Governor and Administrator of the Union Territory, Kiran Bedi, cannot interfere in the day to day affairs of the government.
    • Justice Mahadevan in his judgment had held that the Lieutenant Governor has no powers to interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the elected government saying it would defeat the purpose of the people’s mandate.
  • The court ruled that a government is “a trustee for the little man who should not have a perception that the running of the government is a gigantic conspiracy”.
  • It held that the role of Puducherry’s Lieutenant Governor and that of an elected government in the Union Territory were intertwined as per law, and therefore they were expected to act in unison and not in division.

Impact of the Verdict:

  • The view of the learned single judge suffers from a basic fallacy of drawing a parallel on the basis of expected notions of democracy and republicanism vis-a-vis the status of elected legislature of a Union Territory and that of a State.
  • This cannot be done by a judicial pronouncement and has to be through a legislative process by the appropriate legislature.
  • For the time being, there is no such law that may equate or put them at par.

The verdict is a major victory for Bedi who has been maintaining that the Constitution has given her enough powers to interfere in the functioning of the democratically elected government as Puducherry is a Union Territory and not a full-fledged state.

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