Delhi a Union Territory in a class by itself: SC said 20 years ago

The Constitution Bench judgment roadblocks Kejriwal government’s fight for statehood.

Updated - October 18, 2016 02:25 pm IST

Published - September 10, 2016 02:20 am IST - NEW DELHI

A 20-year-old judgment delivered by a Constitution Bench of nine Supreme Court judges is a major roadblock in the way of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government’s endeavour to upset the Delhi High Court’s verdict that Delhi is a Union Territory and not a State.

‘Not a State’ The 1996 judgment by Justice (as he was then) B.P. Jeevan Reddy in North Delhi Municipal Corporation versus State of Punjab clearly terms Delhi as a Union Territory in a class by itself. The judgment observed that “the Union Territory of Delhi is in a class by itself but is certainly not a State”.

In Friday's hearing, a Bench led by Justice A.K. Sikri reminded the Delhi government about how the NDMC verdict “specifically” calls Delhi a Union Territory. The Centre is also banking on this judgment to win the case in the Supreme Court.

Appeal for 11-judge Bench Senior advocate K.K. Venugopal has asked the Supreme Court to refer the appeals to an 11-judge Bench in a bid to surmount the obstacle raised by the NDMC verdict.

“Union territories are in different stages of evolution,” the 1996 judgment had explained, “some have already acquired Statehood and some may be on the way to it.

Article 246(4) The fact, however, remains that those surviving as Union Territories are governed by Article 246 (4) notwithstanding the differences in their respective set-ups — and Delhi, now called the ‘National Capital Territory of Delhi’, is yet a Union Territory”.

Justice Reddy offers a simple definition of what Union Territories are: “Union Territories are not ‘States’: they are the territories of the Union falling outside the territories of the States”.

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