Emphasising on “people’s right to have a democratically elected government”, the Supreme Court on Thursday issued a “legal clarification” that the Lt-Governor was empowered to call fresh polls in Delhi, without having to wait for the one-year term of proclamation of President’s rule to end.
A bench of Justices R M Lodha and Kurian Joseph said there was “no fetters or impediments” for the L-G or the President to revoke or vary the proclamation of President’s rule “if the facts and circumstances so demand”.
As per a pertinent provision in the Government of National Capital Territory Delhi Act, the order of proclamation has a life span of one year. The petitioner in the case, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), had apprehended that the L-G may not reconsider the order imposing President’s rule in Delhi until expiry of this period. AAP also pointed out that the proclamation had been approved by Parliament.
However, on being asked by the court, the Centre’s law officer recorded his statement that the Constitution accorded authority to the L-G to examine the proclamation any time he deemed appropriate.
Accepting his views, the court clarified that the L-G did not have to wait for any fixed term to revisit his decision on keeping the Delhi Assembly under suspended animation and that he could do so in accordance with his discretion and in the interest of democracy.
As both the BJP and the Congress opposed the order saying the L-G may feel pressured to reconsider his decision in the wake of the SC observation, the bench said it was not issuing any positive direction to the L-G.
“We are not telling him what to do, how to do and when to do it. Forming an opinion is his prerogative and we are not going to say anything on that. Let the L-G decide it on his own,” the bench said.
However, counsel for both the parties cautioned that such an order may “undermine” the authority of the L-G’s office and this may be read as a direction to re-examine the decision. They also questioned the timing of AAP’s petition, maintaining that it approached the court merely four days after the proclamation was issued, whereas they should have waited for a reasonable time before complaining about the L-G’s order.
At this, the bench opted to add: “This order shall not be construed as a direction to any authority in any manner.”
It posted the matter after two weeks.
At the outset, the court noted that both the Congress and the BJP had not taken a “firm” stand on formation of government in Delhi. A day ago, both the parties had filed their responses to the AAP’s petition. The two parties supported the L-G’s decision, citing the fluid situation in Delhi.
They urged the court to refrain from interfering with “political issues”. On the issue of formation of government, the BJP contended that it would communicate its decision on when and how to form the government only to the L-G, if and when, he invites them to form the government. It said the court should let the L-G take a call on these political issues and not issue any directives.