With the Haryana government brushing aside the Centre’s instruction to withdraw its controversial law on the management of gurdwaras, the law ministry has opined the Centre can give directions to the state under the Constitution.
The Haryana Assembly passed the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Bill, 2014, on July 11. The bill received governor Jagannath Pahadia’s assent three days later, bringing the law into force. But attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told the Centre that the Haryana Assembly did not have the legislative competence to pass the bill as the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, came under the Constitution’s Union List.
Home secretary Anil Goswami had soon after instructed Haryana chief secretary SC Choudhary to ask Pahadia to withdraw his assent to the bill. But the state government laughed off Goswami’s letter, claiming that there was no provision to withdraw consent.
The home ministry had sought legal opinion to ascertain its options in dealing with Haryana’s refusal. Government sources said the law ministry made it clear that the Centre was within its powers to issue directives to the state to prevent a breakdown of the constitutional machinery. The law ministry has cited Article 256 of the Constitution that empowers the Centre to give any direction considered necessary to make states exercise its executive power in compliance with the laws.
Government sources indicated that the Centre would adopt “a step-by-step approach” at this stage rather than invoke Central rule as was being speculated in Haryana’s political circles.
“At the moment, the Centre’s options are really limited,” a government source said, a reference to perceptions that governor Pahadia – who was appointed by the UPA – may not cooperate with the Centre.
But Pahadia’s term comes to an end later this week; on 26 July, raising hopes in the home ministry that the new governor would be more receptive to the A-G’s opinion questioning the assembly’s legislative competence.