The Puducherry government, led by Chief Minister V Narayanasamy who is at loggerheads with Lieutenant Governor (LG) Kiran Bedi, was directed by the Supreme Court Tuesday not to implement till the next hearing any decision, having financial implications, that may be taken in the June 7 Cabinet meeting.
The apex court impleaded Narayanasamy as a respondent in the application filed by the Centre and Bedi seeking a direction for restoring the situation prevailing before the April 30 Madras High Court verdict which held that the LG “cannot interfere” in the day-to-day affairs of the elected government in the Union Territory.
The Centre and the LG have approached the apex court challenging the high court’s April 30 verdict.
A vacation bench comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and M R Shah issued notices to the respondents, including Narayanasamy, on the application seeking relief of “status quo ante” (situation prevailing before the high court verdict).
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor Generals (ASGs) Aman Lekhi and A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre and Bedi, told the bench that the court should consider granting the relief.
They said if the situation prevailing before the high court’s verdict was not restored, the UT administration was likely to come to a standstill.
Nadkarni placed before the bench the agenda of Cabinet meeting, scheduled on June 3 but adjourned to June 7, and said that most of the agenda items would have financial implications and if implemented, the main petitions challenging the high court verdict would become infrastructure.
Senior advocates P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner on whose plea the high court had passed the verdict, opposed the contentions of Lekhi and Nadkarni.
They said that while hearing the matter earlier, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had not granted stay on the high court’s verdict.
“Leave to join the Chief Minister of Puducherry as a party respondent so far as the present interlocutory application is concerned,” the bench noted in its order. “Having heard the ASG and senior counsel appearing on behalf of the respective parties, notice on this application, returnable on June 21, 2019,” the bench said.
“Till the next date of hearing of the present application, it is directed that any decision in the Cabinet meeting to be convened on June 7, 2019 having financial implication/implications or with respect to any transfer of the lands shall not be implemented. However, it shall be without prejudice to the rights and contentions in the main special leave petition as well as in the present application,” the bench said in its order.
It said the respondents may file their counter to the application filed by the LG seeking interim relief.
“So far as the substantive prayer for interim relief to direct to maintain the status quo ante prior to the impugned judgment passed by the high court is concerned, the senior counsel appearing on behalf of the original writ petitioner(s) have stated at the Bar that till the matter is heard no contempt proceedings shall be initiated to implement the impugned judgment and order passed by the high court,” the bench said.
The court directed the counsel appearing for the Centre and Puducherry government to file additional affidavit with grounds, including placing on record the agenda of the Cabinet meeting to be held on June 7, within three days.
On May 10, the apex court had sought response from Congress MLA K Laksminarayanan, on whose petition the high court had delivered the April 30 verdict, on the pleas filed by the Centre and Bedi.
On April 30, the Madras High Court had allowed a plea filed by Laksminarayanan and set aside the two communications issued in January and June 2017 by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs “elevating” the powers of the administrator.
Referring to the Supreme Court judgement on the tussle between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Anil Baijal, the high court had said that restrictions imposed on Government of Delhi are not applicable to the Government of Puducherry.
“The administrator cannot interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the government. The decision taken by the Council of Ministers and the chief minister is binding on secretaries and other officials,” it had said.
Laksminarayanan had claimed in his plea before the high court that the administrator was interfering in the day-to-day administration of the territorial government, its policies and programmes.