Raj Nivas should have ignored ‘Union’ versus ‘Centre’ debate, says former MP Ramadass

According to him, the term “Union”, in the context of oath taking, necessarily pertains only to Indian Union and not to Puducherry Union Territory.

Former Member of Parliament M. Ramadass has said that the office of the Lt. Governor should have desisted from wading into the “unfounded, mischievous and trivial” controversy over the term “Ondriya Arasu” (Union government) and said that the subsequent clarification from Raj Nivas only served to confound matters.

The term had recently kicked off a debate over the connotation of the term from the perspective of Centre-State relations and principles of federalism after the BJP in Tamil Nadu found Chief Minister M.K. Stalin’s preferred reference to the Centre as “Ondriya Arasu” and not “Madhiya Arasu” (Central government), objectionable and politically loaded.

The use of the term “Union” by Lt. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan while administering the oath of office and secrecy to the Council of Ministers of the NDA government on June 27 set off another round of heated chatter on social media.

The Raj Nivas subsequently clarified that the “India Ondriya Puducherry Atchipparappu” (Indian Union Territory of Puducherry) in the pledge in Tamil referred to the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Weighing in on the issue, Mr. Ramadass said in a statement that the administration of oath of office and secrecy in Tamil to the Council of Ministers of the government by the Lt. Governor on June 27 was perfectly in order and consistent with the long tradition and the constitutional convention.

“However, as the highest constitutional authority, her [Lt. Governor] office should have desisted from offering a clarification, especially on the term “Union”. The elucidation that the word “Union” applied to the Union Territory of Puducherry and not the Indian Union is a gross constitutional conundrum and historically a bad precedent,” Mr. Ramadass said.

According to him, the term “Union”, in the context of oath taking, necessarily pertains only to Indian Union and not to Puducherry Union Territory. It is only under the Indian Union that the Ministers of the Union Territory of Puducherry took oath and expressed allegiance to the Indian Constitution.

He pointed out that Part I of the Indian Constitution speaks of “ The Union and Its Territory ”. Article 1 Name and territory of the Union mentions that (1) India, that is Bharath, shall be a Union of States. Article 1 sub-section says that the territory of India shall comprise – (a) the territories of the States; (b) the Union Territories specified in the First Schedule.

“It is thus crystal clear that Union means India which is a Union of States and Union Territories including Puducherry. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or Union Territories of Puducherry, Chandhigarh etc are constituents of Indian Union and not vice-versa”, he said.

Puducherry Union Territory being as a constituent of Indian Union cannot per se be a Union. The word Union in the Union Territory means also Indian Union. Indian Union Territory of Puducherry means that Puducherry is the Territory of Indian Union. When it was liberated from the French rule it had to necessarily become a territory of Indian Union and the word India was used not to distinguish it from French but to denote its control over Puducherry, Mr. Ramadass said.

As Puducherry is a Territory of the Indian Union, it is administered and controlled by the Indian Union represented by the President of India and his representative the LG. In a recent argument in the Court, the Solicitor General of India declared that the Union Territory of Puducherry is the property and asset of the Union Government and it can use it in whatever manner it desires.

“In view of this, I hope that the office of LG offers its clarification and maintains that Puducherry is not a Union but only a Territory of the Indian Union,” he said.

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