Who holds the reins of Delhi — Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal or Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal? It will be known Wednesday when the Supreme Court pronounces its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the Delhi High Court’s order, which held the L-G as the administrative head of the national capital.
The case has been listed for judgment before a Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra at 10.30 am. The bench, which also comprises Justice A K Sikri, Justice A M Khanwilkar, Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, had reserved its verdict on December 6, 2017.
The AAP government had taken the stand that the Chief Minister and the council of ministers had the power to make laws as well as the executive authority to enforce the enacted statutes. It argued that the L-G has been taking many executive decisions and a “harmonious interpretation” of Article 239AA (which lays down special provisions with respect to Delhi) of the Constitution was needed to fulfill the constitutional mandate for a democratically elected government.
The Kejriwal government also accused the L-G of making a “mockery of democracy”, saying he was either taking decisions of an elected government or substituting them without having any power. The state government also accused the L-G of sitting on files. The Centre countered this and said the said provisions “give them (Delhi government) no exclusive executive powers” and that “for any Centrally administered territory… and especially Delhi in respect of its unique position… responsibility is on the shoulders of the Union Government”.
Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh said the Constitution makers never intended to give full statehood to Delhi. The Constitution clearly defines both Union Territory (UT) and State, and if UT had to be read as state, then it would have expressly said so. “Unless there is a specific reference, we can’t read that into the entirity of the Constitution,” it submitted.
Singh said that in 1987, the Central government had constituted a committee to consider the demands of various political parties to give full statehood to Delhi. The ASG also rejected the charge that the L-G was acting on his own and sitting on files, saying that of the nearly 600 files that came to the L-G in the last three years, only three were referred to the President due to difference of opinion.
Even these three related to functioning of police, which fell in the exclusive domain of the Centre, he said. The rest were disposed of at the secretariat level, he added.
The Delhi government had moved the High Court challenging a Ministry of Home Affairs notification, claiming it conferred unprecedented powers on the LG. Rejecting the AAP government’s stand, the HC ruled in August 2017 that “the contention of the Delhi government that the Lt Governor is bound to act only on the aid and advice of the council of ministers in relation to matters in respect of which the power to make laws has been conferred to the legislative assembly of NCT of Delhi under Article 239AA, is without substance and cannot be accepted.”
The Delhi government was represented by senior lawywers P Chidambaram, Gopal Subramanium, Rajeev Dhavan and Indira Jaising.