The Delhi government has moved the Supreme Court challenging an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by which a High-Level Committee headed by Lieutenant-Governor V.K. Saxena was set up for handling solid waste management in the national capital.
The AAP-led Delhi government, which has been at loggerheads with the Lieutenant Governor over several administrative issues, filed the appeal against the February 16 order of the NGT, saying that its effect was to “bypass the elected government completely” and hand over the power with regard to the management of solid waste to the Lt. Governor and the Central government which is in violation of the Constitutional scheme.
Amid a lingering conflict between the Centre and the AAP dispensation, the Delhi government had filed a separate plea a few days ago assailing another order of the NGT naming the Lt. Governor as the chairperson of a High-Level Committee (HLC) on Yamuna pollution.
The fresh plea, filed through lawyer Shadan Farasat on May 30, sought the setting aside of the NGT’s final order of February 16, saying the Delhi government was “aggrieved by the executive powers conferred on the Lt. Governor vide the Impugned Order over areas in which only the elected government of the NCT of Delhi enjoys competence”. “The NGT has appointed the Lt. Governor as the chairman of a committee when there was absolutely no statutory or constitutional power conferred upon the Lt. Governor to chair such a committee,” it said.
The panel set up by the NGT comprises the chief secretary, and secretaries of the Irrigation, Forest and Environment, Agriculture, and Finance Departments of the Delhi government.
Besides these officers, the panel includes the Chief Executive Officer, Delhi Jal Board; Vice Chairman of the Delhi Development Authority; Secretary or his nominee in the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India; D.G., Forest, or his nominee in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India; and some other officials.
The petition said the order had constituted the committee with a mere figurehead as its chairperson.
“Further, the remedial steps as suggested by the NGT such as setting up new waste-processing facilities, augmenting existing waste-processing facilities and remediation of legacy waste sites are all those which require budgetary allocations authorised by the Delhi Government/Legislative Assembly of the NCT of Delhi, and hence the role of the elected government becomes extremely necessary in this regard,” it said.
The plea said public health, sanitation and solid waste management were referable to Entry 6 of Schedule 12, which gives power to the local government — the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) — to deal with these issues.
The plea referred to the 2018 and 2023 Constitution Bench judgements of the top court on the Delhi-Centre power row to buttress the point that Lt. Governor has no power related to solid waste management in the national capital.
“Under the scheme of administration in Delhi and the scheme of Article 239AA of the Constitution, the Lt. Governor is only a nominal figurehead except in areas of police, (public) order and land.... While the Appellant acknowledges that a coordinated approach is necessary for solid waste management... [the impugned order] completely side-lines the elected government.”
“The effect of the NGT’s orders cannot be to confer executive powers to an authority that cannot, under the Constitutional scheme, be conferred it and is instead vested with the elected government,” it said.
The Lieutenant Governor is bound to act only on the aid and advice of the council of ministers headed by the Chief Minister, it said.