With Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung underscoring the supremacy of his office in matters of governance, the Delhi government has armed itself with a letter from former home minister P Chidambaram. The letter cites then Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati’s opinion on powers in the national capital, which states that the L-G is bound to act on the aid and advice of the Delhi council of ministers.
In a letter to the Delhi government on Tuesday, Jung had cited a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) letter dated July 25, 2002. This letter reads, “…In respect of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD) the “Government” means “the Lieutenant Governor of the NCT appointed by the President under Article 239…of the Constitution”.
Jung had used this letter to underscore the superiority of his office to reverse the Delhi government’s appointment of Swati Maliwal as the chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW).
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Sources in the Delhi government said that Chidambaram’s letter to the government in 2011 superseded the earlier letter. However, Chidambaram’s letter dated January 31, 2011, refers to a another context – the Delhi government’s right to fix circle rates. Then, former chief minister Sheila Dikshit and then L-G Tejendra Khanna had disagreed over jurisdiction. Chidambaram’s letter weighed heavily on Dikshit’s side.
The 2011 letter reads, “…the reference to the word “Government” in the Indian Stamp Act, 1899…read with the provisions of Entry 63 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution means “Government of NCT of Delhi”…The Lt Governor is bound to act on the aid and advice of the GNCTD (council of ministers) in this regard.” Chidambaram refers to Vahanvati’s opinion of the same.
A senior government official said, “This letter clearly shows that the Lt Governor must act on the aid and advice of the council of ministers and that “government” means “Government of NCTD”. Though it was in a different context, the spirit of the letter remains the same. What the present Lt Governor is using is an older letter and not an order.”
Sources in the government said that they could challenge the 2002 letter Jung cites in court too. “In a scenario where the Centre cannot be trusted to be impartial, the courts are our only option. We are getting legal advice on the issue,” an official said.