Amidst an ongoing power tussle in Puducherry, the Centre has made it clear that the lieutenant governor (LG) of the Union Territory enjoys more power than a governor of a state and can act without the aid and advice of the council of ministers. The Union home ministry also said the LG can call for files relating to any case and request the chief minister to for an update on any doubt or query which may arise. The clarification came amidst the ongoing tussle between Puducherry LG Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy over powers designated to the two authorities. Bedi has been appointed by the Centre while Narayanasamy is heading a Congress-led government.
A similar feud was also witnessed between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former LG Najeeb Jung in which the Delhi High Court had in August 2016 upheld the supremacy of the LG. In a communication to the Puducherry administration, the home ministry said the power to dispose business relating to departments on a day-to-day basis is of the ministers aided by the secretaries. However, equally so, there is Rule 21(5) of Business of the Government of Puducherry under which the LG can call for papers relating to any case, it said.
The use of the word “papers” would necessarily include all the papers comprising the file. Even though the word used in Rule 21(5) is “papers”, but the same is wide enough to include the entire file as well, it said. Quoting a Delhi High Court ruling, the ministry said the LG would have executive powers wider than the discretion which is exercised by a governor of a state. In fact, it has been held that the LG while exercising such powers and discharging such functions which “any law” requires to be done “in his discretion” acts on his own judgement without seeking aid and advice of the council of ministers, it said.
Further, in a case of a difference of opinion and referring a matter to the central government/president in an urgent situation, the LG can take action as he deems necessary and can give such directions as he considers necessary. The home ministry said the rules of business do not show any provision whether the LG can call the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues for making a presentation on departments held by them. In case of any doubt, the LG could as a measure of courtesy, request the chief minister and any cabinet colleague for an update on any doubt or query that may arise, it said.