Context: The high court of Madras re-examined the respective roles of Lieutenant Governor and the elected government in the UT of Puducherry.
- An earlier judgment of a single judge had delivered a verdict in favour of the elected government and had ruled that L-G could not interfere in the day-to-day functioning of the elected government.
- The single judge bench also held that the Administrator is bound by the “aid and advice” of the Council of Ministers, and the power to refer any matter to the President should not mean every matter.
- The Single-judge bench drew parallel vis-a-vis the status of elected legislature of a Union Territory and that of a State to decide upon the roles.
- The current judgement set aside the earlier judgment of a single judge.
- The current Judgement ruled that such a parallel cannot be drawn by a judicial pronouncement and has to be through a legislative process.
- The current judgement held that the roles of both are intertwined as per law, and therefore they were expected to act in unison and not in division.
- The bench also concluded that its role is not to decide upon who has residual control whether it is the Council of Ministers or the Administrator, but to bring out the existing legal framework under which their respective powers are defined.
- Both the benches took cues from the Supreme Court’s ruling on NCT of Delhi.
- The apex court had emphasised on the need for constitutional morality and constitutional trust among constitutional position holders.
- It implied that Lt. Governors and Chief Ministers must work in unison as far as possible.
- In case of an unresolved difference of opinion, the LG should refer it to the President for the final decision.
- Day to day administration suffers as we have seen in the case of Puducherry and even NCT of Delhi.
- A perpetual blame game between LG and the UT government eventually hinders the welfare task of the Government.
- The comparison between LG’s powers in Delhi and Puducherry is yet to be resolved given the sui generis status of NCT.
Under Article 1 of the Constitution, the territory of India comprises three categories of territories:
- Territories of the states
- Union territories
- Territories that may be acquired by the Government of India at any time.
- India has a total of 8 Union Territories and 28 states.
- The 8 Union territories of India include Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Puducherry, Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.
- The union territories are those areas which are under the direct control and administration of the Central government.
- Hence, they are also known as centrally administered territories.
- In this way, the existence of these territories constitutes a conspicuous departure from federalism in India.
- The Government of India is plainly unitary insofar as the relationship between New Delhi and these Central enclaves is concerned.
Administration of UTs
- 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.
- The President can specify the designation of an administrator, it may be Lieutenant Governor or Chief Commissioner or Administrator.
Advisory committees of UTs
- Under the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961, Ministry of Home Affairs is the nodal ministry for all matters of Union Territories relating to legislation, finance and budget, services and appointment of Lt. Governors and Administrators.
- Earlier, all the five UTs without legislature (Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Daman and diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep) have the forum of Home Minister’s Advisory Committee (HMAC/Administrator’s Advisory Committee (AAC).
- While HMAC is chaired by the Union Home Minister, AAC is chaired by the Administrator of the concerned UTs.
- Members of Parliament and elected members from the local bodies e.g. District Panchayats and Municipal Council of the respective UTs are members of these committees among others.
- The Committee discusses the general issues relating to social and economic development of the UTs.
- Need of the hour is to ensure clarity in the laws and constitutional provisions regarding governance of UTs. Like Article 239AA related to NCT of Delhi has witnessed a long tussle between LG and the elected government.
- The Supreme Court while deciding upon the limits of the L-G’s powers in Delhi, had stressed the need for coordination and cooperation between the LG and people’s representatives.
- The Lt Governor of Delhi, or Puducherry should only have the power to refer disagreements between him and the chief minister to the President, as the 69th amendment permits him/her to do so.
- Hence, Governor/LG needs to play his role effectively to protect and defend the Constitution by keeping in mind the Constitutional sanctity of the post.
- All in all, it calls for the government as well as the LG to follow in letter and spirit the concept of democratic principles.