The Madras High Court on 21 February, has dismissed a writ petition filed by the Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, who challenged a decision taken by the President concurring with Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, to disburse cash instead of free rice to ration cardholders.
The bench headed by Justice C V Karthikeyan while hearing the plea filed by Chief Minister V Narayanasamy held that he could not question the President’s order, communicated through the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, since being a CM, he has to adhere to the oath taken to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution and act in accordance with the Constitution and the law. Further, while citing to the Government of Union Territories Act 1963, which empowers the Lieutenant Governor to refer an issue to the President if he/she disagrees with the advice provided by the Council of Ministers, the judge stated that the Act specifically states that a decision taken by the President, on such a reference, must be acted upon without posing any question or expecting an answer.
“When a decision has been rendered by the President, then further actions must only be according to the decision given by the President. This is binding on the Council of Ministers, which includes the Chief Minister, and also the Lieutenant Governor,” stated Justice C V Karthikeyan.
The Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy through a writ petition has challenged a decision taken by the President concurring with Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, in favour of disbursing cash to ration cardholders instead of supplying them free rice, as resolved by the Council of Ministers of the Union Territory.
According to the petitioner, in furtherance of its poll promises during the 2016 Assembly elections, the government had passed a resolution on 7 June 2019, to continue the welfare scheme of providing the items in kind and referred the same to Union Home Ministry on 5 September. However, the ministry differed and advised the government to continue the scheme with Direct Benefit Transfer (i.e. directing subsidies to people through their bank accounts) in lieu of distribution of free rice and the same was passed in an interim order, delivered by Kiran Bedi.
Dismissing the writ petition, the court stated that “This court, even while exercising its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the constitution can never examine the merits/demerits of two different proposals. Therefore, very consciously, I am not entering into any discussion as to whether the supply of free rice is a better option or not.”