Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi administers the oath of office to three BJP leaders at Raj Niwas on July 4. Official Twitter handle @thekiranbedi
A dawn-to-dusk bandh backed by Chief Minister V Narayanasamy against Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi shut down much of Puducherry on Saturday. Narayanasamy described Bedi’s induction of three BJP leaders into the state Assembly last week as “a shame on the Constitution and the democratic norms and conventions”, and M K Stalin, working president of the DMK, which is in a coalition with the Congress in power, accused Bedi of “indulging in actions that blatantly disregard the democratically elected government”. On Friday, Narayanasamy had tweeted a picture of a protest fast against Bedi’s “actions of being an agent of BJP”, to which the LG had retorted, “Feel sad for our most beautiful part of India… Puducherry”, tagging the official handles of the President, Prime Minister and Home Minister. Earlier on July 6, she had posted on Twitter, “Since when is application of Law a ‘murder of democracy’? [See the] law. Central Govt has [the] power to Nominate & LG has [the] power of oath giving..!”, and “How is carrying out ones responsibilities being an agent of a party? This is Govt of India direction & as Administrator I have to abide.”
What exactly did the LG do, which precipitated the latest round of confrontation with the Chief Minister? What are the provisions under which she acted? What is the background and context of that law? What is the larger process by which lawmakers are nominated to elected bodies of people’s representatives?
Whom did LG Bedi nominate to the Puducherry Assembly, and under what circumstances?
On July 4 evening, Bedi administered the oath of office to V Saminathan, president of the BJP’s Puducherry unit, K G Shankar, its treasurer, and S Selvaganapathy, an educationist and member of the Puducherry BJP, making them members of the Assembly, and posted pictures of the ceremony at Raj Niwas on Twitter. In a press release issued the following morning, the LG’s Secretariat said the oath ceremony had been carried out “against the background of their (the nominated members) reporting the compelling circumstances they had been placed in”, following which “a careful decision was taken not to delay their taking the oath. Hence, without any public function being organised, the oath was administered in the LG’s office chamber itself.
Political parties including the Congress, DMK, VCK and Left condemned the Centre’s “arbitrariness” in choosing the three nominated members – which allowed the BJP to enter the Assembly — and the “undemocratic” manner in which they had been “secretly” sworn in. The ceremony in Raj Niwas was held on the eve of a scheduled hearing in the Madras High Court of a petition filed by a Parliamentary Secretary to the Chief Minister, seeking a stay on the nominations. The three BJP leaders had earlier met Assembly Speaker V Vaithilingam to press for the oath; however, Saminathan told reporters on July 4 that “We took the oath as the Speaker delayed the swearing-in ceremony”.
What does the law say on nominating members to the Assembly of a Union Territory?
Article 239(A), first introduced in the Constitution by the Fourteenth Amendment in 1962, allows Parliament to enact a law for the creation of “a body, whether elected or partly nominated and partly elected, to function as a Legislature” for Puducherry. Under The Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, “the Central Government may nominate not more than three persons, not being persons in the service of Government, to be members of the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory.”
Puducherry and Delhi are the only two Union Territories that also have elected Assemblies. Delhi is governed under the National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991. As per The Government of Union Territories Act that governs Puducherry, the 30-member Assembly can have an additional three members nominated by the Centre. Bedi administered the oath of office to the nominated members based on the recommendation sent by the union Home Ministry.
Where else are members nominated in a legislature?
There are two other types of nominations in a legislature: either for a community that is not adequately represented, or for members with expertise in a particular field. Rajya Sabha provides for 12 nominated members with expertise in the fields of science, art, literature and social service. In Lok Sabha, two members from the Anglo-Indian community can be nominated if the community is not adequately represented in the House. Anglo-Indian members are also nominated in nine state legislatures: West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Jharkhand. In both cases, the purpose of nomination is mentioned in the Constitution. Jammu & Kashmir has a provision for two women members to be nominated if women are not adequately represented.
What powers do nominated members have?
Anglo-Indian members of Lok Sabha enjoy the same powers as any other member of the House They can vote during a no-confidence motion. The power is similar for Anglo-Indian nominated members in state Assemblies. In Rajya Sabha, too, nominated members enjoy the same powers as other members. In the case of Puducherry, however, nominated members in the Assembly cannot vote in a no-confidence motion nor can they vote on financial matters. Since the nominated members cannot vote in a no-confidence motion, they cannot disturb the existing majority of the ruling party. In the election for the President of India, no category of nominated member is eligible to vote.
So, why does the system of nominated members exist in Puducherry?
At the time of the debate in Rajya Sabha on the Constitution Amendment Bill, the purpose of the nomination appeared to be to allow members from a community not adequately represented to be part of the legislature. However, in the enacted law, there was no mention of representation from weaker or inadequately represented sections as a purpose of the nominations. In fact, one member argued that the concept of nomination should not be applicable at all, given the size of a Union Territory, and called for such a clause to be made available only under certain conditions. Another member felt that the union government would use this provision for ulterior motives — he referred to a situation in the Nagpur Corporation where the Congress managed to overturn its minority situation by nominating members to the body. A third member suggested the use of single transferable vote, like in the case of elections to Rajya Sabha, to nominate members. A fourth suggested the use of a Resolution in the Assembly to approve the nomination of members.
What is the process followed in the nomination to the Puducherry Assembly?
Political parties have been arguing that only the Speaker has the power to induct a member in the House. However, the law for Puducherry only specifies that the central government has the power to nominate; the process to be followed is unclear as there is no rule or notification. This is similar to the nomination of an Anglo-Indian member: while the All India Anglo Indian Association and Federation of Anglo-Indian Associations in India can send recommendation for nomination to Parliament and state Assemblies, the government has the final say in sending the names to the President or Governor for nomination.