SC to hear Puducherry L-G’s plea for clarity on powers

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a petition filed by Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi seeking clarity in the administrative control of the Union Territory.

Bedi, in her plea, argued that government officers in Puducherry were caught in a bind after the apex court issued a notice on a Madras High Court order that curbed Bedi’s powers.

Bedi’s counsel, Gagan Gupta, contended in the petition: “Direct that status quo ante be maintained as regards administrative functioning in the Union Territory of Puducherry as it existed prior to passing of the impugned judgment of April 30 (Madras High Court order), during pendency of the present petition.”

Bedi and Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy have been at loggerheads on administrative issues ever since she assumed office in May, 2016. In the wake of the standoff, Bedi moved the Madras High Court seeking clarity on control of bureaucrats in Puducherry.

The Madras High Court in its verdict on April 30 stated that the Lieutenant Governor “cannot interfere with the activities of the elected government”.

Bedi’s petition contended that the Chief Minister has issued a note quoting the high court order and directed the Chief Secretary, the Development Commissioner-cum-Secretary (Personnel) and the Commissioner-cum-Secretary (Finance) shall review all the existing standing orders issued by the departments concerned and then amend it in tune with the high court order.

“A department-wise note in this regard has been called for,” said Bedi’s counsel.

Highlighting the confusion among officers in the light of the high court order, the petition claimed: “The officers are in a quandary as to whether to implement the directions of the high court or otherwise. That the officers are being threatened with contempt action is leading to an administrative chaos, hence the urgency (for an early hearing).”

On May 10, the apex court admitted Bedi’s appeal to stay the High Court decision and issued a notice to various respondents, including the state government. Bedi’s petition claimed that the Madras High Court had not understood the true import of the Union Territories Act.

Bedi’s counsel sought the apex court to direct that officers in the Union Territory administration shall not harassed or threatened in any manner citing the high court order, during pendency of this petition.

“The high court has equated the L-G of Puducherry to the L-G of NCT of Delhi, despite the fact that the former enjoys greater discretionary powers and has a special responsibility towards Puducherry,” the plea said.

Bedi’s counsel informed the top court that the Chief Minister had issued orders even after its May 10 notice.

Earlier appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the court that the Centre was willing to challenge the Madras High Court’s decision and sought an urgent listing of the matter.