CHENNAI: Madras High Court on Friday dismissed a writ petition filed by Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy against the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Puducherry, Kiran Bedi’s decision to disburse cash instead of free rice to ration cardholders.
Dismissing the writ petition, Justice CV Karthikeyan said, “Under provisions of the Union Territory Act, the decision of the President is binding on the administrator and ministers. Under the law governing the UT, the decision on behalf of the President will be taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs and such is the decision made for DBT, which is binding on the administrator as well as ministers.”
According to the petitioner, in furtherance of its poll promises during 2016 Assembly elections, the government had passed a resolution on June 7, 2019, to continue the welfare scheme of providing the items in kind and referred the same to Union Home Ministry on September 5. However, the ministry differed and advised the government to continue the scheme with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) (i.e., directing subsidies to people through their bank accounts) in lieu of distribution of free rice. Not stopping with this, Bedi also passed an interim order that rice will not be supplied in kind, but the benefit will only be distributed by DBT mode.
Federalism at crossroads
“The issue was only with respect to the extension of benefit by the supply of rice or by transfer of cash, and therefore, the petitioner was in no way directly affected by the communication. It was also stated that the petition is liable to be rejected on the ground that, under Section 55 of the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, any suit or case can be filed only in the name of the Union of India”, submitted the counsel for L-G.
Countering the submissions of L-G, the counsel for Narayanasamy submitted that though UTs are under the general control and supervision of Centre, they are an independent entity on their own. It was stated that President had not delegated power to the first respondent under Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, and therefore the impugned order of first respondent is without jurisdiction, he argued.