Delhi is no doubt a Union territory, but the elected government must have powers to be able to function, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday while hearing the contentions of the Centre and the AAP government.
The court posted the case for final hearing on January 18, when it will pronounce on the battle between the Centre and the Kejriwal government over the latter’s powers. The city government had moved the SC against the high court order upholding the lieute nant governor’s primacy in administering the capital.
Responding to arguments on Wednesday, the court said, “You may be right, but the elected government should have powers. Otherwise the government won’t be able to function at all. There is no doubt that Delhi is a Union terri tory but there are special provisions for Delhi.”
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Abhay Manohar Sapre said the NCT government had a valid point in raising the question whether powers can be taken away from an elected government, adding that the matter needed to be adjudicated at the earliest to end the controversy .
The Centre has been locked in a prolonged confrontation with the AAP government, with the latter challenging the need to send files and decisions to the lieutenant governor for his concurrence. After the high court verdict, LG Najeeb Jung set up a committee to review some 400 “illegal” decisions that had been passed without his concurrence or vetting.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the AAP government, told the bench that a situation had arisen where bureaucrats were not following ministers’ orders and it had become difficult to manage affairs. He pleaded that the HC order be stayed and the government be allowed to take decisions and implement its policies. Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar told the bench there was an abnormal situation as the Delhi chief minister and the deputy chief minister were filing affidavits in their own name.The court, however, replied that they were forced to file affidavits as the officers were not following the directions of the NCT government to file affidavit on its behalf.
The bench also expressed concern over the legal battle between the Centre and Delhi government spilling over to court proceedings in other cases as lawyers from both sides “fight” in court claiming to represent the state, disrupting the smooth hearing of cases.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said that the Centre was not allowing any counsel on the Delhi government’s panel to file petition in courts and expressed apprehension that it may be made impossible for him to argue the case.He said that the Delhi government should be able to engage lawyers of its choice and asked the bench to restrain the Centre from removing lawyers from the panel.
The court said all lawyers appearing in the case would continue and made it clear that it would pass an order if advocates were removed from the panel. The first round of the legal tussle had gone in favour of the Centre and LG with the Delhi high court holding that the CM or his ministers cannot issue orders without the LG’s approval and every decision must be routed through him. The court had ruled that the LG was not bound by the “aid and advice” of the Delhi cabinet on any matter.
Challenging the order, the AAP government said the HC had no jurisdiction to decide the issue and the judgment was illegal and unconstitutional.
19 Feb 2019
20 Feb 2019