Amid political gang-up against her in Puducherry, Lt Governor Kiran Bedi tells her side of the story in an exclusive email interview with The New Indian Express
What is the genesis of the present controversy surrounding the transfer and reinstatement of Puducherry municipal commissioner R Chandrasekaran?
Raj Nivas holds an Open House every evening from 4-6 pm. Any person who has an issue, if he thinks the Lieutenant Governor’s office could be of help, comes. He is heard and the matter attended.
In one such Open House, residents of a locality came with the grievance that their colony has heaps of garbage and unattended plots due to which pigs roam around and the colony is infested with snakes and mosquitoes. I brought the matter to the notice of the Municipal Commissioner and told him in another two weeks I on my weekend morning rounds will visit the locality. This is the way I identify places for my weekend 6 am rounds.
Accordingly we did. I saw that the colony was suffering and civic amenities were seriously amiss. It needed attention.
As a standing practice whenever I visit a locality, my office informs the area MLA with a request to join me in the visit. It is a different matter that none of them turn up. He did not do this time too.
We always minute and document, video and photograph the meeting.
We recorded the deficiencies and the Municipal Commissioner assured the residents that he shall attend to them.
As a follow up the Municipal Commissioner went to the area and during one of his meetings the local MLA (A Bhaskar) along with his goons barged in and disturbed the meeting as complained by the Municipal Commissioner. The residents got scared. They all ran away. The Municipal Commissioner gave a written complaint to the police. The MLA’s complaint was why did the Municipal Commissioner hold a meeting without informing him and without his permission.
The fact is there is nothing in the law and rules where a public servant doing his duty is mandated to do so.
In fact he is expected to work on his own. And MLAs should be happy that officers are working on their own. The MLA could have supported him and taken his help in improving the constituency.
But he obstructed the officer from doing his duties. The MLA too complained to the Speaker that a breach of privilege happened.
Did you ask Chandrasekaran not to invite the local MLA?
I don’t need to... And he does not need to, to do his duty.
If you didn’t, did Chandrasekaran do it by himself? Was he right in ignoring the MLA?
A public servant does not need approval to do his duties. However he can always inform the MLA. But it is not mandated.
Would you agree Chandrasekaran is a mere pawn in the fight between you and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy?
I have no fight. As an Administrator I am a protector of officers who perform their duty honestly and sincerely. It is my duty. I have done this all my life, all through my career.
When you cite Rule 47 to assert that the Lieutenant Governor alone is empowered to decide on service matters, the Chief Minister cites Rule 47(2) saying he must be consulted before any decision is taken. Do you agree?
Consultation would have happened if the Chief Secretary (Manoj Parida) had sent the file. I got no file. I was bypassed, due to which I have declared the order invalid. And the Government of India is in agreement with me. The Chief Secretary left no scope for consultation. Had he forwarded the file to me the ball would have been in my court to consult or not to consult. He issued the orders despite my written instructions sent by email to wait and come and discuss.
Whose word is final on service matters, the Lieutenant Governor’s or the Speaker’s, who has invoked his powers under the breach of privilege law to punish Chandrasekaran?
When all other files of transfers were coming to me this too should have come. Which means in transfer and posting the Lieutenant Governor’s is final. If there was doubt, the Chief Secretary could have asked for legal opinion. The government has a law secretary. Why was his opinion not taken by him?
How would you respond to the charges that you are encroaching into the domain of ministers by issuing direct orders to officers?
I am accountable for all I do. I am strictly adhering to the laid down rules. If anyone has a contrary opinion they can certainly take legal recourse.
To the best of my knowledge nowhere in business rules does the Speaker or the Legislature have powers to post or transfer. They can take higher legal opinion if they think they have, which is why I have asked the Government of India to send us legal guidance. Just for your information, whenever we have sought legal clarity in the past from the MHA on the division of responsibilities, the political establishment has declared such opinions as ‘mere interpretation’. Hence, despite MHA directions they continue to transgress.
Why don’t you and the Chief Minster settle it mutually instead of targeting bureaucrats for punishment?
I have not targeted the bureaucrats. I have identified the key officer in key position who triggered and abetted the breakdown of administration.
You are a fighter. But since there is a political gang-up against you, would you consider putting in your papers?
I am a performing Lieutenant Governor and not a rubber stamp. I am also entrusted with Executive and Financial responsibilities. I am doer. I am here to serve Puducherry with total sense of responsibility - administrative and financial. I am here to check corruption and mismanagement inherited and also attempted to be practiced. I have been able to halt it. Right now I am on a sacred mission. Destiny will decide for how long I will continue. On my own I will continue to correct and transform for the love of Puducherry. It deserves good governance.