V P Singh Badnore takes charge as Governor of Punjab on Monday — a position that will bring for him additional responsibility as Administrator of the Union Territory of Chandigarh. This follows the fiasco over reports that former IAS officer K J Alphons would be UT Administrator — Alphons has said that the central government had offered him the post but subsequently backed off. While regretting that he had been Administrator for a few hours “only in the media”, Alphons told The Indian Express that “Chandigarh requires a full-time administrator and not someone who has additional charge.” Who is the Administrator of Chandigarh and how is he appointed?
UT of Chandigarh
Chandigarh was Punjab’s capital from 1952 to 1966, when Haryana was carved out of it. Unable to reconcile the claims of both states to Chandigarh, the union government made it a Union Territory under Section 4 of the Punjab Re-Organisation Act, 1966, with effect from November 1, 1966. The administration of Chandigarh passed directly to the Centre, and an IAS officer was appointed as Chief Commissioner.
Context of militancy
The Punjab militancy of the early 1980s had a spillover effect on Chandigarh. Parliament enacted the Chandigarh Disturbed Areas Act, 1983, to deal with militancy-related problems and maintain law and order. From June 1, 1984, the Governor of Punjab was given charge of administering the city in close coordination with Punjab on militancy-related issues. The office of the Chief Commissioner was redesignated Advisor to Administrator. Arjun Singh was the first Governor of Punjab to hold the charge of Chandigarh Administrator — and the arrangement has continued ever since, even though the Chandigarh Disturbed Areas Act itself was quashed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2012.
The Punjab government and opposition parties maintain that the 34-year-old practice of the Governor of Punjab holding charge as Chandigarh Administrator bolsters its claim over the city as its capital. It is argued that there was a tacit understanding that the arrangement with Haryana would continue until Haryana could set up its own capital. Over time, the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab, sharing of river waters with Haryana and transfer of Punjabi-speaking areas of Haryana to Punjab have become three big political issues in Punjab, with potential for grave political implications for the party in power. However, parties choose to ignore the fact that the administration of the city by the Punjab Governor was linked to the Chandigarh Disturbed Areas Act, 1983 — which is now quashed.