Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s ongoing tussle with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung took another turn on Thursday when the Delhi High Court, in no uncertain terms, made it clear that the L-G is the ultimate authority of the National Capital Region (NCR). The court pronounced as illegal many decisions taken by the Arvind Kejriwal-led government without consulting the L-G. Citing Article 239AA of the Constitution, the court said the “contentions of the AAP government are without substance and cannot be accepted”. The decision came on a petition filed by the AAP government challenging the Centre’s May 21, 2015 notification. Under this notification, the Centre had given absolute powers to the L-G in appointing bureaucrats in the NCR.
The High Court seems to have put a cap on Arvind Kejriwal’s ambitions of making Delhi full fledged state. The court ruled that the L-G is the executive officer of Delhi and that the government cannot bypass him in taking decisions pertaining to appointments of bureaucrats.
Ever since Arvind Kejriwal returned with absolute majority in Delhi, his government has been locked in a power tussle with the LG. His contention is that since he is the elected representative he should have the powers to take major decisions pertaining to the NCR. But the Article 239AA limits his power, albeit leaving some room for ambiguity. Though Delhi is a Union Territory, it has powers to legislate “on all subjects except some such as law and order and land”. But the government can’t set aside Constitutional provisions. And this is what the court has emphasised in its order.
In its election manifesto, Kejriwal had promised full statehood to Delhi and a corruption-free administration. It had ordered inquiry into the alleged corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association and the CNG fitness scam. These two orders were announced without the nod of L-G Jung. The High Court order now pronounced these orders illegal.
Politically, the court decision could not have at a more inappropriate time as far as the AAP is concerned. With 12 of its MLAs arrested in the past and cases registered against many others, Kejriwal has a tough battle to fight in the days to come. The Punjab elections, scheduled next year, was a perfect pitch for him to showcase what his government ‘achieved’ in Delhi in the last two years.
Many call it polemics, but his vicious attacks against the Central government and Prime Minister Narendra have gone up many notches in the recent past. Projecting himself as victim of a conspiracy by the Modi government, Kejriwal seems to have driven the point home that he is not being allowed to perform in Delhi.
But the court decision does seem to have gone in favour of the L-G, and in effect the Central government. Now that the AAP government has decided to challenge the HC order, Kejriwal’s court battle and and the turf war with the L-G is set for a long haul.