The Delhi dilemma

Updated - November 16, 2021 07:21 pm IST

Published - April 21, 2014 12:20 am IST

By leaving it to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi to decide whether to recommend >dissolution of the Delhi Assembly or not, the Supreme Court has wisely refrained from giving any direction to the constitutional authority to follow a particular course of action. What the Court has done instead is to clarify the position concerning the power of the President to rescind or modify his February 16, 2014 >Proclamation imposing President’s Rule in Delhi. There is “no fetter or impediment” to the President exercising his power to revoke or vary his earlier order. When the > Aam Aadmi Party government resigned in February, the Lt. Governor did not accept the outgoing regime’s recommendation to dissolve the House. Instead, >the Assembly was kept under suspended animation . This was rightly done, >as the Supreme Court, in S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India , had ruled that the legislature could be dissolved only after the Proclamation imposing President’s Rule receives the approval of both Houses of Parliament. In the case of Delhi, both Houses have approved the Proclamation, but the Assembly continues to remain suspended. The AAP has approached the Supreme Court challenging the non-dissolution of the House and seeking fresh elections. While the legal position is clear, that the President’s order is subject to judicial review, if it is found to be mala fide , or based on extraneous or irrelevant considerations, it is difficult to see any scope for a direction to a constitutional authority to dissolve — or refrain from dissolving — the legislature. >President’s Rule in Delhi cannot go on beyond a year, unless extended with Parliament's approval.

While the AAP alleges that the Assembly has been kept under suspended animation with the mala fide motive of delaying fresh elections, the government has defended its decision not to dissolve the House. The government’s position is that it would not be expedient or in the public interest to hold another election so soon after the last Assembly election held in December 2013. The absence of a representative government is a real concern. And it is an issue that requires a political solution. The possibility of forming another government out of the present composition of the Delhi Assembly, in which the two top parties are short of a majority, is limited. A fresh election is the obvious way out of the present impasse, but none can guarantee a decisive verdict with any one party winning a majority. In the case of a hopelessly fractured verdict, the only option will be for parties to work together for a reasonable period of time so that repeated, frequent polls are avoided. Ultimately, though, it is the responsibility of the electorate to be decisive and put in place a government that would be stable, and responsive to their needs.

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