In a major setback for Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, the Madras High Court has said the Lieutenant Governor has no powers to interfere or act independently.
Allowing a request by Congress legislator K Lakshminarayanan, the Madurai bench of the high court ruled that the elected government has powers over service matters and cancelled two clarification orders by the centre in 2017 on the powers of the Lieutenant Governor.
"The court has said that in matters of finance, administration and service matters, she (Kiran Bedi) can't act independently but has to consult and act on the advise of the council of ministers," said Gandhirajan, the Congress leader's lawyer.
Ms Bedi said she will make her stand clear after going through the judgement. "We are still in the Model Code of Conduct of the election period. Files which require the Lieutenant Governor's approval such as service matters, of promotions, appointments, disciplinary matters and financial sanctions for grants in aid are being received and being examined and cleared on merits of each case. The weekly disposal is also placed on record as was the earlier practice," she said.
Two years ago, in two of its orders in response to clarifications sought by Ms Bedi, the centre had said the Lieutenant Governor has powers to act independently and is not bound by the council of ministers.
Mr Lakshminarayanan had approached the court when the tussle between Ms Bedi and Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy's government was at its peak following her intervention in an alleged scam in private medical colleges admissions.
She had reportedly inspected colleges and scrutinised government files.
Kiran Bedi has been at loggerheads with the Congress government in Puducherry on various issues ever since she assumed office in 2016. Mr Narayanasamy and the Congress have accused her of delaying clearance to welfare schemes, bypassing the elected government and criticised her weekly field visits.
In February, Chief Minister Narayanasamy had held a sit-in outside Ms Bedi's official residence for a week. demanding her removal over several issues including the rule making wearing helmets compulsory for motorists.
Trouble began when the former IPS officer created a WhatsApp group and started giving orders to the police. She regularly inspected government projects too.
Ms Bedi also took on the Puducherry assembly peaker by swearing in three BJP candidates as legislators nominated by the centre. The speaker had refused to let them in the assembly till the Supreme Court approved her action.
However Kiran Bedi has denied these allegations, saying she goes by the rule book and that she will not be a "rubber stamp" Lieutenant Governor.