SC upholds induction of three nominated MLAs in Puducherry

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the induction of three BJP members — V.Saminathan, K.G. Shankar and S. Selvaganapathy — as MLAs of the Union Territory of Puducherry by the Centre unilaterally without consulting the elected local Congress government. A Bench led by Justice A.K. Sikri, in a judgment, agreed with Attorney General K.K. Venugopal’s argument that since Puducherry is a Union Territory, it is a “property” of the Union government and there is no need to consult the local government on nominations.

The court dismissed Congress leader Lakshminarayanan’s appeal against the induction of the three BJP members as MLAs. The Supreme Court had earlier refused to stay the Madras High Court order upholding the Centre’s decision to nominate three BJP members as MLAs to Puducherry Assembly. The apex court had asked the Speaker of Puducherry Assembly to allow the nominated members to function as MLAs till the adjudication of petition. HC ruling The High Court on March 22 upheld the nomination of the three BJP members to the Assembly by the Centre and their swearing-in by Lt Governor Kiran Bedi on July 14 last year over which the ruling Congress had protested.

The High Court had ruled that an administrator of a Union Territory has powers to act irrespective of the advice of the Council of Ministers. It had held as invalid the Speaker’s order cancelling the nominations of the MLAs. Congress’s counter On November 15, the day the apex court reserved the case for judgment, Mr. Venugopal had countered the argument made by the Puducherry wing of the ruling Congress, represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who argued that the nomination should emanate from the local elected government but the final decision could be taken by the Union.

This, Mr. Sibal, would be in the true spirit of “co-operative federalism”. Mr. Sibal had said the Centre cannot have “untrammelled power to nominate and the local government State should be consulted… Neither the Union is a stranger nor the State. Centre is the final authority, but the names should emanate from the State”.

But Mr. Venugopal had contended there was “no wholesale transfer of unlimited legislative and executive powers over Union Territories from the Centre to the local government unless otherwise provided by law”. The law is silent about any process of consultation and hence the court should not intervene, the Attorney-General had argued. No right “No local council of ministers have a right to impose over the will of the Union. It is my right to govern my property. The Centre is all-powerful.

Will you force consultation when the law itself is silent? Here, the question of any sort of co-operative federalism does not arise,” Mr. Venugopal had argued. In fact, Mr. Venugopal reversed the logic applied by Mr. Sibal on “consultation”. The AG had said any requirement for consultation would only encroach into the absolute right of the Centre, guaranteed under the Constitution and law, to administer its own property. “Tomorrow, this ‘consultation process’ will be stretched to other areas which will upset the constitutional balance,” Mr. Venugopal had submitted.

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