The Delhi High Court verdict has in a way confirmed what has been said about the Delhi chief minister's post for a long time – the person is just a glorified mayor or half-a-chief minister.
The verdict is a huge blow to Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party, who till now had chosen to interpret Constitutional norms as per his own whims. His idea was to not recognise the authority of Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, be in a constant confrontationist mode with the Centre, blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi for everything under the sun and build a public image about himself as a person who is a fighter and who battles conspiracies hatched by an adversarial Modi regime at the Centre. It didn't matter to him that he was constantly provoking all the centres of power and authority with whom he was expected to coordinate to govern.
The Delhi High Court bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini ruled that National Capital Territory of Delhi continues to be a Union Territory and the Lieutenant Governor is its administrative head. It means that Delhi, even if it has an elected Assembly and a chief minister, does not have powers like other states.
Worse, the verdict came as a result of nine petitions the AAP filed in the High Court. The move has clearly boomeranged on the ruling AAP. And for once, Kejriwal can't blame Modi for this rather damaging clarification on his status. An otherwise hyper active Kejriwal's Twitter account is silent. He is apparently taking his time to absorb this shock and give a measured response.
The verdict hurts Kejriwal in more ways than one. His moves to order a series of inquiry commissions without following due procedure by referring them to the LG — commissions of inquiry into CNG fitness scam, Delhi and District Cricket Association illegalities, policy directions to electricity regulatory commission for compensation to people for disruption in power supply — were declared illegal by the Court.
The ruling to junk the one-man inquiry commission headed by Gopal Subramaniam is particularly noteworthy. Kejriwal constituted it around the time Finance Minister Arun Jaitley filed civil and criminal defamation cases against him and other AAP leaders including Ashutosh, Raghav Chadha, Sanjay Singh, Kumar Vishwas and Deepak Bajpayee who had made strong allegations of corruption against Jaitley for the period he headed the DDCA. The legal proceedings on that defamation case is going on in respective courts. The LG had raised a red flag over this inquiry commission as it was done without his approval. Eyebrows were raised in public also because it was publicly known that head of that inquiry commission, former solicitor general Gopal Subramanian had his own share of discord with Jaitley. The LG had cited that the inquiry into the CNG fitness kit scam set up by the Kejriwal government earlier was set aside by the union home ministry on the same ground.
Disbanding of the DDCA inquiry commission means that it cannot proceed with its inquiry. That deprives Kejriwal of an opportunity to take on Jaitley, whatever its prospective findings may have been.
See what the Delhi HC had to say with regards to the Delhi CM's powers vis-a-vis LG and Centre: "The matters connected with 'Services' fall outside the purview of the Legislative Assembly of NCT of Delhi... Therefore, the direction in the impugned Notification (of the Centre) of February, 2015 that the Lt. Governor of the NCT of Delhi shall in respect of matters connected with 'Services' exercise the powers and discharge the functions of the Central Government to the extent delegated to him from time to time by the President is neither illegal nor unconstitutional."
The Bench held that it was mandatory for any decision taken by the Council of Ministers to be conveyed to the LG even if the decision has been taken regarding a matter about which the Legislative Assembly has the power to make laws. Excerpts of judgment as published in The Hindu said the Court concluded that, "On a reading of Article 239 and Article 239AA of the Constitution together with the provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 and the Transaction of Business of the Government of NCT of Delhi Rules, 1993, it becomes manifest that Delhi continues to be a Union Territory even after the Constitution (69th Amendment) Act, 1991 inserting Article 239AA making special provisions with respect to Delhi." The Bench also stated in its judgement that just because Article 239AA has been inserted, it does not dilute the application of Article 239 in any way.
Even if Kejriwal appeals against this verdict in the Supreme Court, he cannot be sure that the SC will rule in his favour. After all, it was he and his party who approached the High Court.
Kejriwal will definitely feel crippled. Till now he thought that LG office was an unnecessary burden on him and his government. But now, whether he likes it or not, he will have to concede that he will have to deal with LG Jung with certain reverence.
This is the biggest jolt Kejriwal has received since the time he became chief minister. Since it is a result of an interpretation of legal-constitutional position of a city government which he leads, he can't blame anyone but his own fate.
First Published On : Aug 4, 2016 16:35 IST