Telangana courts test of its powers

Telangana govt has amended laws, sometimes repeatedly, through GOs and Ordinances.

Hyderabad: The Telangana state government’s stand that it has the power, under the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, to repeatedly amend laws through executive order will come up for judicial scrutiny. Parliament had made a provision, in Section 101 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act that enabled the Telangana state government to adapt, repeal or modify laws of undivided AP. According to Telangana state Advocate-General K Ramakrishna Reddy, Section 101 empowered the government to adapt, repeal or amend laws by executive order for two years from June 2, 2014, when the state was formed, without seeking legislative consent.

Advocate Sivaraju Srinivas, who is fighting the case against amending the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Act through an executive order, said, “The state government cannot use its powers under Section 101 arbitrarily. It amounts to the Executive usurping the power of the Legislature.” He said Section 101 empowered the government to amend or repeal a law through an executive order only once. It does not empower the government to make repeated changes to a law which is already adapted, through executive order.

Advocate S. Sriram, who is fighting cases against changes to laws pertaining to state universities to appoint vice-chancellors, said, “Section 101 is an exigency power, it cannot be an alternative to the Legislature and it does not have retrospective effect.” He said that after adapting a law, subsequent changes can be made either by the Legislature or by way of Ordinance in case of urgency, but not through executive order.

The government is relying on a judgment delivered by the Jharkhand High Court on a similar issue of amending a law through executive order by citing Section 85 of the Bihar Reorganisation Act, 2000. In Rashmi versus State of Jharkhand, a division bench of the Jharkhand High Court ruled that once a state adopted an existing law, it would be treated as law that was in existence before the appointed day.

At High Court, the mood is of disapproval:

The Telangana state government has faced tough times in court on PILs that were moved against certain GOs that it issued to amend laws. The High Court has stated that it was prima facie satisfied that the state government has no power to amend a law by merely issuing a government order once it was adopted by citing the AP Reorganisation Act 2014.

The court was of the opinion that the balance lay in favour of the petitioners who moved PILs against the amendments carried out through executive orders, to the GHMC Act that reduced the schedule for the GHMC elections, another that introduced the Building Regularisation Scheme and a third to appoint vice-chancellors directly and withdrawing the power of the Governor by amending the laws governing different state.

Amendments made to the GHMC Act to allow more MLCs to register as ex-officio members of the GHMC have also been challenged. The High Court suspended this GO and has ordered status quo with regard to BRS. It has directed the government not to regularise illegal buildings but allowed it to receive applications for the scheme. The court declared that the appointment of vice chancellors, after amending university laws, would be subject to the outcome of the petition pending before it.

Interestingly, the court also made an oral observation after it came to know that the government has brought out an Ordinance after the court suspended the GO on MLCs as ex-officio members. The court said that it felt prime facie that the government had no power under the AP Reorgnisation Act, 2014 to repeatedly amend an Act which it had adopted. The court observed that this was evident from the action of the government in withdrawing its earlier order on the matter.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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