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Wednesday, December 6, 2017
SC reserves for verdict on Delhi-Centre power spat
The AAP government had challenged the Delhi High Court judgment declaring the LG as the sole administrator of Delhi
A five-judge Constitution Bench of
the Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved for judgment the Centre-Delhi power
tussle over who between them wields the power of administration and governance
over the National Capital.
Over a month after it commenced
hearing the batch of appeals filed by the Delhi government, the Bench led by
Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra wrapped up the hearing after hearing the
rejoinder arguments of senior advocates Gopal Subramanium and Rajeev Dhawan for
the Delhi government.
The Bench also comprised Justices
A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP
government had challenged the Delhi High Court judgment declaring the LG as the
sole administrator of Delhi.
The Delhi government was represented
by a galaxy of senior counsel, including P. Chidambaram and Indira Jaising. The
Centre was represented by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, who had
argued that the Delhi government cannot stake any claim to have executive power
over the sensitive National Capital.
Mr. Subramanium emphasised that the
69th Constitutional amendment, giving the people of Delhi an elected government
and a legislature, was based on the fundamental principles of egalitarianism.
Mr. Dhawan argued that the court
should not narrowly interpret a constitutional amendment which actually
enhances the fundamental rights of democracy in consonance with the 'Basic
Structure' doctrine introduced by a 13-judge Bench in the historic Keshavananda
He argued that the status and powers
bestowed in the constitutional amendment should be read organically in its
entirety and not selectively. The powers of the President, the Lieutenant
Governor, Council of Ministers in the Delhi government and the Chief Minister
He argued that there was no point to
comparing Delhi to any other State or Union Territory.
The 69th Amendment of the
Constitution in 1992 gave the National Capital of Delhi special status with its
own democratically elected government and legislative assembly.
Sub-section (4) of Article 239AA
mandates that a Council of Ministers shall aid and advice the LG in his
functions regarding laws made by the Legislative Assembly.
The focus of the current controversy was
a proviso to Article 239AA (4), which mandates that in case of a difference of
opinion between the LG and the Council of Ministers, the former has to refer
the issue to the President. In the meanwhile, while that decision is pending
before the President, the LG, if the matter is urgent, can use his discretion
to take immediate action.
Mr. Subramanium had alleged that the
LG has misused the discretion in this proviso to block governance to such an
extent that decisions from appointment of teachers in municipal schools to
opening of mohalla clinics have been pending for over a year. The Chief
Secretary and other officers, without applying their minds to the various
welfare proposals and schemes, simply forward the files to the LG, where it
Mr. Subramanium had argued that the
"extraordinary discretion" of the LG is confined to special
circumstances and not in everything.
At one point, Chief Justice Misra had
agreed that the "difference of opinion" between the LG and the Delhi
government should be "authentic" and had not meant to stultify