At first there were murmurs and today the question is out in the open. The health of Tamil Nadu chief minister, J Jayalalithaa has become a major cause of concern and many are demanding to know the exact status.
Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M Karunanidhi on Friday cited media reports that the CM's friend Sasikala and advisor, Sheela Balakrishnan were functioning as her proxies.
While the opposition DMK refers to secrecy, the ruling AIADMK quotes privacy. However, for the common man who is often bombarded with rumours on his Whatsapp, the tension is unbearable. A few in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu says there is palpable tension in the air and they have been returning home early from work.
The other question is if a Chief Minister is in hospital who should be in charge of the state? In this case it is very difficult to make out an argument about who should be in charge of the state. Prior to the meeting at Delhi on the Cauvery issue, the AIADMK said that the points to be raised were all dictated by Jayalalithaa who convened a meeting at the Apollo Hospital, Chennai where she is admitted.
If one were to go by this version, then there appears to be no crisis in the government as the AIADMK state indicates that she is still in charge.
The need for clarity
While Karunanidhi citing media reports states that the government is being run by Sasikala and Sheela Balakrishna, he also calls for clarity on the issue. He says protocol demands that the Chief Secretary of the Health Minister should inform the people of the Chief Minister's health condition.
Legal experts say that this is quite a tricky situation. While on one hand the former CM alleges on the basis of media reports that it is a proxy government that is being run, on the other, the AIADMK says that Jayalalithaa is discharging her duties from hospital. It is now for the governor to report on the matter and throw some light on the issue.
Experts say that if the CM is in hospital and is discharging her constitutional duties, then no fingers can be pointed. However, in the event of her unable to discharge her duties, then there has to be one authority in place who will take over the governance.
Normally as per protocol, it is the Home Minister who is always second in command. However, this does not always have to be the case and if the Chief Minister has appointed a trusted aide to run the government then it would be that person in command. But in the event of no such person being delegated then as per protocol it is always the Home Minister.
Misuse of Constitution
Karunanidhi also points out that there ought to be some clarity. If media reports of the government being run by proxies is correct then it amounts to misuse of powers and over stepping what is enshrined in the Indian Constitution, he says.
However, in order to prove these allegations, a report from the Governor becomes mandatory. He would need to visit the hospital to take stock of the sitiuation and report it. If the governor does find that the government is being run by proxies, he could report to the President that there has been a breakdown of the machinery.
In such an event, the governor could advise the government to appoint a second in command to take decisions.
Legal experts say that at this juncture, the Governor can only play the role of an advisor. It would not be possible for Article 356 of the Constitution to be invoked at this point in time. Under Article 356, the President can dismiss a State Government or dissolve a State Assembly or keep it under suspended animation in the event of a failure of the constitutional machinery in that state.
It is too early for this and for now going by the version of the AIADMK, Amma still runs the government, experts would also point out.
Eexperts also feel that the secrecy should end. If everything is indeed fine, then the public ought to know as they have elected the government.
The AIADMK can say that this is a matter of privacy. While right to privacy is enshrined in the Indian Constitution, there is also a sense of responsibility. The people in Tamil Nadu are anxious over this issue and hence some amount of clarity would on this issue would do a world of good.