The Delhi High Court recently observed that the fundamental structure of our Constitution remains unaffected and unviolated by the use of the term "Central Government" in lieu of "Union Government."

The Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna was dealing with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed with the prayer that directions be issued to the Union of India to use the expression “Union Government” instead of “Central Government” or “Centre”. The PIL also prayed for declaring Section 3(8)(b) of the General Clauses Act, 1897 as ultra vires the Constitution of India.

Senior Advocate D.N. Goburdan along with Advocates Hemant Raj Phalpher and Shivam Pundhir appeared for the Petitioner while Central Government Standing Counsel Kirtiman Singh appeared for the Respondent.

The Petitioner before the High Court submitted that usage of the word 'Centre' signifies that the 'Central Government' is the centre of authority giving the wrong impression that the State Governments are subservient or subordinate to the Union Government. He submitted that the term 'Union' depicts the correct constitutional theme signifying that the Government of India is a Union of States, and not per se a superior Central Authority having power over and above the States.

The Petitioner further referred to Articles 1, 76, 79, 246, 300 and Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India, wherein the word 'Union' has been used. Reference has also been made to the One Hundred and Twelfth Report of the Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee presented in the Parliament of India, Rajya Sabha to contend that it is clear that the founding fathers of the Constitution treated the three wings viz. the Union Executive, the Union Legislature and the Union Judiciary, as constituents of the Union.

On the other hand, the Union Government prayed for dismissal of the writ petition.

Taking into account the presented arguments, the High Court observed that the Constitution of India extends beyond the term 'Union' and incorporates expressions such as 'Government of India' and 'Central Government.' The High Court stated, "This Court notes that though the expressions “Union” and “Union of India” have been used extensively in the Constitution, however, the expressions “Government of India” as well as “Central Government” have also been used largely in the Constitution at various places. Thus, Articles 243ZH, 243ZR, 279A and 342A use the expression “Central Government”. Similarly, the expression “Government of India” has been used extensively in various Articles in the Constitution, viz. Articles 8, 12, 58, 66, 73, 77, 102, 110, 112, 131, 138 ,148, 191, 243-ZE, 256, 257, 258, 260, 266, 268, 269, 269A, 270, 273, 275, 283, 284, 287, 292, 293, 294, 295, 296, 299, 300, 312A, 316, 319, 320, 323-A, 361 and 371A."

The Bench further referred to Article 300 of the Constitution which categorically states that the “Government of India” may sue or be sued by the name of Union of India and further observed, "Accordingly, it is manifest that the Constitution itself has used various expressions to indicate the Government which is the Government of the country viz. the Union of India, the Central Government or the Government of India."

The Court also referred to Article 73 of the Constitution making it evident that the expression 'Union' includes the 'Government of India'. The Court observed, "Article 73 of the Constitution stipulates that the executive power of the “Union” shall extend to the exercise of such rights, authority and jurisdiction as are exercisable by the Government of India."

Further stating there is no bar to use the expression 'Central Government', 'Government of India' and 'Union of India' interchangeably, the Bench in its judgement stated, "The contention of the petitioner that use of the expression “Central Government” gives the wrong impression that State Governments are subordinate to the Union Government, is totally unacceptable. The Federal Structure of the Constitution of our country is one of the essential and basic features of the Constitution. Federalism, which is the basic structure of our Constitution, cannot be said to be diluted or violated in any manner by use of the expression “Central Government”. Basic structure of our Constitution is the foundation on which the governance of our country is rooted."

In conclusion, the Court also stated that the expressions 'Central Government', 'Union of India' as well as 'Government of India' have been used vastly in various statutes and connote the Government of the country in interchangeable expressions and thus, when the Constitution as well as other Statutes have applied various expressions to connote the Government of the country, this Court will not enter into the arena of legislation, which is not within the domain of this Court.

Accordingly, finding no merit, the Court dismissed the Petition.

Cause Title: Atmaram Saraogi v. Union Of India [W.P.(C) 12231/2022]

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