Union Territories : Constitutional Issues – UPSC GS2

  • President rule has been imposed recently in Puducherry after the Narayanasamy government lost majority support in the assembly.
  • This incident is not new. It is very common especially when Union Territories with assemblies and Central government are ruled by different parties.
How the present constitutional set up makes it easier to destabilize Union Territories:
Constitution of India under article 239A provides for Legislature and Council of Ministers in Union territories. The intent behind this move was to fulfill the democratic aspirations of the people of these UTs. In other words, the rule of the President under article 239 through administrator is not in line with democratic needs.
However, certain provisions are working as hurdles in achieving the real intent behind these provisions.
  • Article 239A provides that a local Legislatures or Council of Ministers (CoM) or both can be created for Union territory. It means there can be a Council of Ministers without a legislature or with it or vice versa. In our constitutional scheme, either CoM or legislatures can work alone. The legislature is a law-making body and CoM proposes these laws.
  • Constitutional provisions provide that legislature to be a partly elected and partly nominated body. Center through a simple amendment can create a legislature with more than 50% nominated members.
    • In the case of Puducherry, the Center can nominate 3 members to 33 members in the Puducherry Assembly. Thus, the Centre nominated 3 members of its party to the assembly. This move was challenged in SC. However, SC ruled that the Centre is not required to consult the State government for nomination and nominated members have the same right to vote as regular members.
    • Rajya Sabha also has nominated members, but, under clause (3) of Article 80, some qualifications are mentioned for such nominations. It ensures enrichment of quality of debates.
    • However, it is not the case with Puducherry assembly. No qualifications are mentioned for nominations.
  • Lieutenant Governor in the UTs restricts the autonomy granted to UTs. Center can interfere in every decision of the Council of Ministers through LG and President.
    • Article 239 AA(4) and section of UTs act vests the power in the administrator. He or she can express disagreement with any policy matter and refer the matter to the President. Then, he or she can take all actions he or she deems fit in the matter.
    • In Puducherry too, conflicts between the Lt. Governor and the Chief Minister were perennial.
Thus, past experience proves that the UTs with legislatures have ultimate control vested in the central administrator. It is not workable.

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