The UPA government appears to be on the point of destroying our political system based upon our Constitution. Immediately after the Railway Minister presented the Railway Budget representing the cabinet a Chief Minister demanded that he be replaced by another incumbent selected by the Chief Minister. If the Railway Minister has spunk he should refuse to resign. The budget was approved by the Prime Minister and Finance Minister and represents the views of the entire cabinet. The Chief Minister is an extra-constitutional voice making a constitutionally untenable demand. The Chief Minister to whose party the Railway Minister belongs can at most expel him from her party. That would make the Railway Minister an independent. He could remain at his post.
If the Prime Minister nevertheless obeys the Chief Minister’s command the President before making the change in the cabinet can ask the PM why it is being sought. If the PM refers to the Chief Minister’s command as the reason, the President should refuse to swear in the new incumbent. The President should point out to the PM that if extra-constitutional authorities dictate policy of the Union Cabinet the Constitution is violated. The President is under oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and law.
While dealing with this issue the President might also refer to the Union Cabinet’s approach to the UN resolution on the Sri Lankan human rights violations. Another Chief Minister is attempting to dictate the centre’s policy on that issue. It is one thing for the government to ascertain views across the nation before formulating policy. But if a change is enforced by a chief minister of the Union Cabinet’s foreign policy already formulated the matter becomes constitutionally questionable. Therefore the President should also share her views on this matter that is evolving. If the PM is not responsive to the President’s views the latter should sack the government in order to preserve the Constitution and honour her oath of office.
Article 75 (1) of the Constitution states:
“The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be approved by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.”
Article 75 (2) states:
“The Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.”
If in the unfolding situation matters do actually come to such a pass that the Prime Minister is prepared to sack a Minister whose performance is satisfactory in order to propitiate a chief minister, President Pratibha Patil should refresh her memory regarding her oath of office and decide where her duty lies.