The Madras HC ruling is a respite for Puducherry
Over the years, the office of the governor and L-G has become more and more politicised with the ruling dispensation of the day using the governor it has appointed to destabilise opposition governments.Updated: May 01, 2019, 18:40 IST
The turf battle between Puducherry Chief Minister, V Narayanasamy, and Lieutenant Governor, (L-G) Kiran Bedi, which began when she assumed office in 2016, has now reached some resolution with the Madras High Court making it clear that Ms Bedi cannot interfere in the day to day activities of the government. The court also said that she had no power to call for files or give direct orders to officials. The last word on this has not been written with Ms Bedi saying she is looking into the matter, but this ruling will, with luck, end what had clearly been overreach on the part of the L-G on many occasions. Things came to such a pass that the chief minister actually sat on a dharna to protest the erosion of his powers by the L-G.
The situation in Puducherry is not of a piece with a similar battle that has been ongoing in Delhi. Puducherry is governed by the provisions laid out in the Rules of Business of the Government of Pondicherry, 1963, which make it binding on the L-G to act on the advice of the government on matters relating to law and order, land, finance and services.
The ministry of home affairs has often weighed in on Ms Bedi’s side to highlight that she has an integral role to play in running the Union Territory (UT), muddying the waters further. The people of the UT have been caught in the war between the two power centres with various schemes, such as the free distribution of rice, allocation of financial aid to SC/ST students, and the distribution of grant-in-aid and development works often being held up.
Over the years, the office of the governor and L-G has become more and more politicised with the ruling dispensation of the day using the governor it has appointed to destabilise opposition governments. The importance of the office of the L-G is that it is a crucial link within the federal structure in maintaining that communication lines remain open between the state/UT and the Centre.
For this to be effective, an L-G or a governor has to be a neutral arbiter in disputes that should ideally be resolved through consultation, and not through confrontation, as we have seen Puducherry and numerous other states. Ms Bedi is right when she says that she cannot be a rubber stamp. But she waded into constitutionally tricky territory, the result of which was a governance gridlock in the UT. For the moment, the air seems to have been cleared by the high court, giving the Union Territory a much-needed respite from the almost daily bickering between the CM and LG.