The Supreme Court Tuesday agreed to hear next week appeals of the Delhi government relating to the scope of its various powers in view of the recent verdict by a Constitution bench that held that the Lieutenant Governor has no independent power to take decisions.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had recently laid down broad parameters for the governance of the national capital, which has witnessed a power struggle between the Centre and Delhi government since the Aam Aadmi Party came to power in 2014.
The bench had clarified that issues regarding various notifications issued by the Delhi government in exercise of its administrative and legislative powers would be dealt with separately by an appropriate smaller bench.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered the submission of the Delhi government that even after the verdict the stalemate over the issue of public services was continuing and that needed to be dealt with by an appropriate bench.
“It will be listed sometime in next week,” the bench told lawyer Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government.
The apex court had in its July 4 ruling, vindicated Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has long accused the LG of preventing his government from functioning properly.
It had said that barring three issues of public order, police and land, the Delhi government has the power to legislate and govern on other issues.
There were two LGs –incumbent Anil Baijal and his predecessor Najeeb Jung– with whom Kejriwal was at loggerheads, accusing them of preventing the functioning of his government at the behest of the Centre.
“The LG has not been entrusted with any independent decision-making power. He has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of Council of Ministers or he is bound to implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him,” the verdict had held.
However, the judgement made it clear that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state under the constitutional scheme. The verdict answered contentious issues involving interpretation of Article 239 AA dealing with powers and the status of Delhi, which would now be considered by a bench of 2 or 3 judges to adjudicate the matters on which there was a tug of war between the Delhi government and the Centre.
The bench, which expressed its opinion on the constitutional provisions referred to it by its smaller bench, had said now the batch of appeals arising out of the August 4, 2016 verdict of Delhi High Court, in which it was held that LG was the administrative head, would come up before an “appropriate regular bench”.
It had also said the LG should not act in a “mechanical manner” without due application of mind so as to refer every decision of the Council of Ministers to the President. “The LG and the council of ministers must attempt to settle any point of difference by way of discussion and dialogue,” it had said.
The bench had made it clear that though the decisions of the Council of Ministers must be communicated to the LG, it did not mean that his concurrence was required in every case.
The tussle between the LG and Kejriwal had reached a peak earlier this year when Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash made it clear that he is answerable only to the LG, which resulted in a confrontation at the Secretariat and Prakash was allegedly slapped by an AAP MLA. Subsequently, Delhi bureaucrats went on a virtual strike, refusing to attend meetings called by the ministers.
Kejriwal raised the stakes by staging a sit-in in the visitors’ lounge at the LG’s residence for several days alleging that the LG was repeatedly throwing “hurdles” in the way of the functioning of an elected government, before a compromise was hammered out.