SC issues notice to Puducherry CM in turf war

V. Narayanasamy. (File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi (IANS) In a new twist to the turf war in Puducherry, the Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy and directed that any cabinet decision involving financial implication or land transfer cannot be implemented till the next date of hearing.

A bench comprising Justices M.R. Shah and Indu Malhotra said that the cabinet meeting set for June 7 in Puducherry could take a decision on these issues but they cannot be implemented. 

The next date of hearing in the apex court is June 21. The court ordered the Chief Minister to be impleaded as a party and notice be sent to him. 

On May 28, the top court agreed to hear a petition filed by Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi seeking clarity on the administrative control of the Union Territory.

In her plea, Bedi 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 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 High Court on April 30 ruled that the Lt Governor "cannot interfere with the activities of the elected government".

Bedi's petition contended that the Chief Minister had issued a note quoting the High Court order and directed that the Chief Secretary, the Development Commissioner-cum-Secretary (Personnel) and the Commissioner-cum-Secretary (Finance) shall review all existing standing orders issued by various departments and amend them in tune with the High Court order.

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 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.

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