‘AAP-Centre tussle cannot be called a federal dispute’

Updated - November 29, 2021 01:12 pm IST

Published - August 05, 2016 02:15 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The Delhi High Court judgment on Thursday dismissed the AAP-Centre tussle as a mere “political” wrangle concerning “services” issues which hardly qualify to be called a dispute of a federal nature between the Union of India and a State. By doing this, the High Court has struck a pre-emptive blow to the Kejriwal government’s likely appeal in the apex court. The government has been portraying the case as an infringement by the Union upon the constitutional right vested with his government to exercise its executive and legislative powers over the NCT of Delhi in terms of Article 239AA.

At one point, after the High Court had reserved the case for judgment in May, the Delhi government had made an unsuccessful foray to the Supreme Court saying that the Delhi High Court had no jurisdiction under Article 226 to hear or pass verdict. It had contended that the apex court should call the case to itself and only the Supreme Court under Article 131 has jurisdiction to decide “classic” federal disputes like this one.

But the apex court chose to dismiss the Kejriwal government’s plea, saying “you [Delhi government] were the one who knocked on the doors of the Delhi High Court and now you don’t want it to decide after having reserved its verdict?”

Now, stamping its authority to decide the case and dismissing the claims of the AAP government of this dispute being anywhere near “federal” in nature, the High Court observed that not all disputes between the Centre and a State can be casually termed ‘federal’.

“The dispute must involve a question, whether of law or fact, on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends. Mere wrangles between governments have no place in the scheme of that Article [Article 131]. They have to be resolved elsewhere and by means less solemn and sacrosanct than a court proceeding,” the Delhi High Court judgment said. The judgment was referring to a 1977 seven-judge Bench judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan v. Union of India on the “true construction” of Article 131.

“Every dispute which may arise between the State on the one hand and the Union of India on the other in discharge of their respective executive powers cannot be construed as a dispute arising between the State and the Union of India attracting Article 131 of the Constitution. It is clear that Article 131 is attracted only when a dispute arises between or among States and the Union in the context of the constitutional relationship that exists between them and the legal rights flowing therefrom,” the High Court clarified.

“The purpose of Article 131 is to provide a forum for resolution of disputes which must involve a question based on the existence or extent of a legal right and not a mere political issue,” the High Court quoted from the 1977 precedent.

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