Pronouncing a crucial verdict on the power equation of Government of Delhi, the Supreme Court said Lieutenant Governor has no independent decision-making power. The five-judge bench, led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, also ruled that the LG cannot act as an obstructionist. The verdict, however, will not be applicable on the issues of land, police and law & order, which are in central purview.
“The LG is bound to act on the aid and advice of the council of ministers,” the order read, which will have larger ramifications on the issue of power sharing in the Union Territories, which has elected governments.
The judgement has been pronounced on a batch of appeals filed by the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government challenging the Delhi High Court’s order holding the Lieutenant Governor (LG) as the administrative head of the national capital.
“All decisions of council of ministers must be communicated to LG but that doesn’t mean concurrence of LG is required, said Supreme Court adding that the LG should not act in a mechanical manner and stall decisions of council of ministers.
Justice DY Chandrachud in his separate but concurrent verdict said LG must realise that council of ministers are answerable to people.
The top court, however, told that LG can refer issues on difference of opinion to President only in exceptional matters and not as general rule. “LG must work harmoniously with council of ministers and attempt should be made to settle difference of opinion with discussions,” it ruled.
A five-judge constitution bench had commenced hearing in the matter on November 2 last year, had reserved its verdict on December 6, 2017.
Arguing before the bench, the AAP dispensation said that the chief minister and the council of ministers had the legislative power to make laws as well as the executive authority to enforce the enacted statutes.
The AAP government had argued that the LG has been taking many executive decisions and a “harmonious interpretation” of Article 239AA of the Constitution was needed to fulfil the constitutional mandate for a democratically-elected Delhi government. The article deals with power and status of Delhi.
The Centre had contended before the bench that Delhi government cannot have the “exclusive” executive powers as it would be against national interests and referred to the 1989 Balakrishnan committee report that had dealt with the reasons for not granting status of a state to Delhi.
It had also argued that several “illegal” notifications were issued by the Delhi government and they were challenged in the high court.
The Centre had referred to the Constitution, the 1991 Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act and the Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules to drive home the point that the President, the union government and the LG had supremacy over city dispensation in administering the national capital.
The high court, in its August 4, 2016 verdict, had said that LG is the administrative head of National Capital Territory and AAP government’s contention that he is bound to act on advice of Council of Ministers was “without substance”.
(With inputs from PTI)