SC reserves for verdict on Delhi-Centre power spat

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal  

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved for judgment the Centre-Delhi power tussle over who between them wields the power of administration and governance over the National Capital.

Over a month after it commenced hearing the batch of appeals filed by the Delhi government, the Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra wrapped up the hearing after hearing the rejoinder arguments of senior advocates Gopal Subramanium and Rajeev Dhawan for the Delhi government.

The Bench also comprised Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government had challenged the Delhi High Court judgment declaring the LG as the sole administrator of Delhi.

The Delhi government was represented by a galaxy of senior counsel, including P. Chidambaram and Indira Jaising. The Centre was represented by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, who had argued that the Delhi government cannot stake any claim to have executive power over the sensitive National Capital.

Mr. Subramanium emphasised that the 69th Constitutional amendment, giving the people of Delhi an elected government and a legislature, was based on the fundamental principles of egalitarianism.

Mr. Dhawan argued that the court should not narrowly interpret a constitutional amendment which actually enhances the fundamental rights of democracy in consonance with the 'Basic Structure' doctrine introduced by a 13-judge Bench in the historic Keshavananda Bharati case.

He argued that the status and powers bestowed in the constitutional amendment should be read organically in its entirety and not selectively. The powers of the President, the Lieutenant Governor, Council of Ministers in the Delhi government and the Chief Minister are inter-connected.

He argued that there was no point to comparing Delhi to any other State or Union Territory.

The 69th Amendment of the Constitution in 1992 gave the National Capital of Delhi special status with its own democratically elected government and legislative assembly.

Sub-section (4) of Article 239AA mandates that a Council of Ministers shall aid and advice the LG in his functions regarding laws made by the Legislative Assembly.

The focus of the current controversy was a proviso to Article 239AA (4), which mandates that in case of a difference of opinion between the LG and the Council of Ministers, the former has to refer the issue to the President. In the meanwhile, while that decision is pending before the President, the LG, if the matter is urgent, can use his discretion to take immediate action.

Mr. Subramanium had alleged that the LG has misused the discretion in this proviso to block governance to such an extent that decisions from appointment of teachers in municipal schools to opening of mohalla clinics have been pending for over a year. The Chief Secretary and other officers, without applying their minds to the various welfare proposals and schemes, simply forward the files to the LG, where it remains indeterminately.

Mr. Subramanium had argued that the "extraordinary discretion" of the LG is confined to special circumstances and not in everything.

At one point, Chief Justice Misra had agreed that the "difference of opinion" between the LG and the Delhi government should be "authentic" and had not meant to stultify governance.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 9:12:28 AM |

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