In a relief for Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the capital’s lieutenant governor (LG) cannot act independently, can’t obstruct the AAP government’s policy decisions and is bound by the state government’s aid and advice.
The top court’s five-judge Constitution bench made it absolutely clear that the LG has no independent decision-making power and cannot behave as an obstructionist when the Constitution gives primacy to the representative of the government. And it categorically said neither the LG nor the chief minister (CM) “should feel superior to the other”.
The SC said the Constitution mandates the council of minister headed by the Delhi chief minister to communicate all decisions to the LG but they do not require the LG’s concurrence. The LG can only refer it to President if he has a difference of opinion but he cannot sit on it, the top court said.
“The relationship between Centre and State government should be healthy…The LG must work harmoniously with the state, the LG and council of ministers have to be constantly aligned,” said chief justice Dipak Misra.
“All constitutional functionaries must uphold constitutional morality and must function within the spirit of the Constitution. Constitutional trust must be displayed by all constitutional functionaries,” said chief justice Dipak Misra while reading out the verdict.
The SC ruling has hopefully provided closure to a long running political battle between the Centre and Delhi’s AAP government over who has primacy in the National Capital Territory (NCT).
AAP fielded a battery of senior advocates – Gopal Subramanium, Rajeev Dhavan and Indira Jaising – and sought interpretation of Article 239AA of the Constitution, which according to the Centre created a state in Delhi but gave a major say in governance to the LG who had been clearly mandated to take a decision when there was disagreement between him and the Delhi government over governance issues.
On December 6 last year, the top court had reserved its judgment on the plea of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government challenging the Delhi High Court’s August 4, 2016 ruling, which stated that Delhi is a Union Territory and the Lieutenant Governor is its administrative head. The judgment further said that the L-G is not bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers.
In November last year, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court observed that the AAP government in Delhi needs the Lieutenant Governor’s nod to govern the national capital, but the L-G cannot sit on files beyond a reasonable period.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan had reserved the verdict in the case after a 15-day long hearing.
However, the Centre told the apex court that the AAP cannot claim privileges of a state government, as Delhi is a Union Territory.The Centre also refuted allegations of the Arvind Kejriwal-led government that the Lieutenant Governor sat on files sent by the government for their execution.
The power tussle between the Delhi government and the Lieutenant Governor has been on since the formation of the AAP government in the state.
Recently, Kejriwal, along with Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and others, sat on a nine-day sit-in strike against Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal at the latter’s office-cum-residence.
Kejriwal and other ministers urged Baijal to direct the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers working under the Delhi administration to end their “undeclared strike.”
Read and download full judgment: