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Supreme Court refuses to stay Delhi HC verdict declaring Delhi a Union Territory

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"LG has no qualification to govern Delhi. He enjoys a master-servant relationship. He is only an employee of the Centre. Can be asked to leave by the Centre at any moment," says senior advocate K.K. Venugopal.

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the Delhi High Court judgment declaring Delhi a Union Territory and the Lieutenant Governor (LG) its administrative captain.

A bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and N.V. Ramana asked the Centre to file a counter affidavit to seven special leave petitions filed by the Delhi government and scheduled the hearing for November 15.

The Bench said it would give a preliminary hearing of the appeals on the next date and decide whether they should be referred to a Constitution Bench.

If so, the matter would have to be heard by a 11-judge Bench of the Supreme Court. This is because a nine-judge Bench of the court, in 1996, in the NDMC versus State of Punjab case, recognised Delhi as a Union Territory for taxation purposes.

"The NDMC judgment holds specifically that Delhi remains a Union Territory... We have it in mind to refer the appeals to a Constitution Bench," Justice Sikri responded to a submission made by senior advocate K.K. Venugopal, representing the Delhi government to send the appeals to a larger Bench.

Mr. Venugopal started the hearing by submitting that the Centre and Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, who enjoy a "master and servant" relationship, has "tied the hands of the elected government".

Mr. Venugopal said the Centre through the LG, post the High Court judgment on August 4, had literally taken over governance, reducing the elected government into "some interim arrangement".

"This will affect all future governments... All future relationships will be directly affected," Mr. Venugopal submitted, adding, "LG has no qualification to govern Delhi. He enjoys a master-servant relationship. He is only an employee of the Centre. Can be asked to leave by the Centre at any moment."

Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium said the LG had gone so far as to appoint a three-member committee to enquire into every appointment made by the Delhi government without his permission. This is being done to fix "criminal liability" on an elected government.

Mr. Subramanium said the LG had removed 400 files with the government and kept it in his office to pass it on to the committee.

When Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi complained that the appeals were incompetent because the Delhi government has flouted the Rules of Business by having Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia represent the government in the appeals instead of a Secretary, Mr. Venugopal said Mr. Sisodia was forced to sign the affidavit as the LG, through an order, had issued instructions that no case would be filed through a government official without his prior permission.

"This action of the LG amounts to restricting our access to justice. We cannot go to court now because we need his permission... This is what we have been reduced to," Mr. Venugopal submitted.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 5:37:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Supreme-Court-refuses-to-stay-Delhi-HC-verdict-declaring-Delhi-a-Union-Territory/article14630857.ece

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