‘Logistical hurdles if CM governs from jail, Centre to step into Delhi govt affairs through LG’s office’

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‘Logistical hurdles if CM governs from jail, Centre to step into Delhi govt affairs through LG’s office’
New Delhi: In wake of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal being arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in the alleged liquor policy scam, and sent to its custody, legal experts weighed in on the significant legal and constitutional challenges that could arise if a sitting Chief Minister were to govern from behind bars.

Advocates Suresh Choudhary, Namit Saxena, and Adeel Ahmed cited the logistical hurdles and functional limitations that would impede the effective functioning of the government under such circumstances.

With a potential constitutional crisis looming, experts also cautioned against “hasty interventions” by the Centre, stressing the importance of adhering to legal processes and respecting the autonomy of state governments.

“The legal and constitutional crisis arising from a Chief Minister running a government from inside jail would be substantial. The hindrances the CM would face include logistical challenges in conducting official duties, potential legal challenges to the validity of decisions made from jail, and a loss of public confidence in the integrity of governance,” Choudhary said.

Backing Choudhary’s views, Saxena said: “To run a government from inside jail is logistically extremely tough, for example, an issue as basic as putting signatures on note sheets.”

About the possibility of setting up a camp office, which sounds highly impossible, Ahmed said that legally, there are no impediments but practically, convening a CM’s office from jail may lead to functional hassles.

“In the long run, Kejriwal may want to appoint his ‘Rabri Devi’ to the post all the more because of Delhi’s unique system of governance where the LG may want to intervene, in case the elected government fails to function properly,” he added, citing the case of Bihar, where Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav appointed his wife as his successor after he had to step down in 1997 after being named in the fodder scam.

“Setting up an ad hoc camp inside jail to run government is not practical,” Saxena added.

In situations where government intervention is warranted, such as the current scenario involving the Chief Minister’s arrest, the Centre may consider taking action. However, any intervention must be grounded in substantial evidence or suspicion of wrongdoing and must adhere to legal processes while respecting the autonomy of state governments, the experts held.

According to them, it is crucial to investigate the reasons behind the Chief Minister’s alleged actions before any intervention occurs.

“Any intervention would need to be based on substantial evidence or suspicion of wrongdoing. While the Centre has the power to take action, it must adhere to legal processes and respect the autonomy of state governments,” Choudhary said.

Furthermore, advocate Vineet Jindal told IANS that “central intervention could occur through the Lt Governor (LG), who may involve the President to suspend Article 239 AA governing Delhi’s governance”.

“The LG could justify the imposition of President’s rule under Article 239AB, potentially leading to Kejriwal’s resignation and direct control by the Union government over Delhi,” he added.

Ahmed also said that the LG being the Centre’s representative, the Centre will most likely step into the affairs of the Delhi government through the LG’s office.

“Centre may not directly intervene but the LG will not be wrong to call this a constitutional crisis to take over affairs of the state in his hands,” Saxena added.


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