SC reserves verdict on pleas on Delhi-Centre power dispute, says certain roles are 'co-extensive'

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on a clutch of pleas on the issue whether the Lieutenant Governor or the Delhi government enjoyed supremacy in administration, after the AAP dispensation concluded its arguments asserting that it possessed both legislative and executive powers.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which had commenced hearing on 2 November, reserved the judgement after hearing a galaxy of senior lawyers for 15 days in over four weeks.

File image of Supreme Court of India. AP

File image of Supreme Court of India. AP

While the battery of senior lawyers — P Chidambaram, Gopal Subramanium, Rajeev Dhavan, Indira Jaising — argued for the Arvind Kejriwal government, the NDA government at the Centre was represented by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh in the marathon proceedings.

Wrapping up the rejoinder submissions, Subramanium told the bench, which also comprised Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, that the chief minister and the council of ministers had the legislative power to make laws as well as the executive authority to enforce the enacted statutes.

"The chief minister heads the council of ministers to aid and advice the Lieutenant Governor," he said, adding that Parliament wanted to accord special status to Delhi under the Constitution and, hence, Article 239AA came into being.

Had that not been the intention, there was no need to frame Article 239AA (which deals with power and status of Delhi under the Constitution), Subramanium said, adding that the national capital could have also been governed by Article 239A, meant to deal with the Union Territory of Puducherry.

"The executive authority lies with the Government of Delhi when one says that the Chief Minister and the council of ministers shall be responsible to the Delhi assembly," he said.

Subramanium, however, said that certain powers are "co-extensive" and the rule of Delhi has to be conducted in the name of the President through the elected government.

He said the LG has been taking many executive decisions and a "harmonious interpretation" of Article 239AA was needed to fulfil the constitutional mandate for a democratically-elected Delhi government.

Another senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said that Article 239AA and the GNCTD Act of 1991, made it clear that the LG was just a delegatee of the President and can only act on his own in case of an urgency.

He said the Constitution has to be read as a whole to interpret the powers of the Lieutenant Governor and the fact cannot be ignored that Delhi has a democratic government chosen by the people.

The top court was hearing a batch of appeals filed by the AAP government challenging Delhi High Court's verdict holding the Lieutenant Governor as the administrative head of the national capital.

Earlier, the apex court had considered the submissions of the ASG that several "illegal" notifications were issued by the Delhi government and they were challenged in High Court.

The constitution bench had said it would only lay down the principles on the status of the national capital under the Constitution and not deal with the issues arising out of individual notifications issued by the Delhi government on matters like the 'mohalla clinics' and regularisation of guest teachers.

The ASG had referred to several decisions taken by the AAP government on issues like mohalla clinics, regularisation of guest teachers and posting of Bihar officials in its Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB).

He had also referred to a decision of the Kejriwal government to declare a bungalow allocated to its minister, as the office of the ruling Aam Admi Party.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Reliance Industries Ltd, had dealt with the decision of Delhi government to register an FIR against then Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani and others over alleged irregularities in raising of gas prices.

Can a state government register an FIR against sitting Union Cabinet ministers and private company in matters pertaining to policy decision of fixing the gas price, Singhvi had asked and said in a federal set-up, such actions would "lead to chaos".

The Centre had also said the Delhi government cannot have "exclusive" executive powers as it would be against national interests. It had referred to the 1989 Balakrishnan committee report that had dealt with reasons for not granting the status of a state to Delhi.

It had referred to the Constitution, the 1991 Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act and the Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules to drive home the point that the President, the union government and the Lieutenant Governor had supremacy over the city dispensation in administering the national capital.

On the other hand, the Delhi government had accused the LG of making a "mockery of democracy", saying he was either taking decisions of an elected government or substituting them without having any power.

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Updated Date: Dec 06, 2017 22:22:26 IST

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