The lieutenant governor is the administrative head of Delhi and all decisions taken by its ministers must be communicated to him, the high court ruled on Thursday, dealing a blow to the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in its power struggle with the central government-appointed official.
The court said the lieutenant governor (L-G) isn’t bound by the ministers’ advice while they must communicate their decisions to the Centre, too, in the event of a dispute with the L-G.
Doubling the hurt, it quashed two high-profile probes set up by the Arvind Kejriwal government into alleged irregularities in granting CNG fitness certificates and in the running of the state cricket body.
It also scrapped an AAP order to penalise discoms for unscheduled power cuts and set aside appointments made by it to the discom boards, saying both decisions weren’t communicated to L-G Najeeb Jung.
On the other hand, it upheld a Union home ministry notification stopping the city’s anti-corruption branch (ACB) from acting against central government employees.
Delhi home minister Satyendar Jain said the government will challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court. “Only the Supreme Court has the power to define and interpret the Constitution.”
AAP’s Ashish Khetan tweeted: “The verdict has made a mockery of Indian democracy… Would (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi have agreed to Pranab Mukherjee running the central govt after winning 282 seats in Lok Sabha?”
The L-G said the verdict “is not a win for Najeeb Jung or a loss for Arvind Kejriwal. The court order is a kind of clarification that incorrect things will have to be corrected”.
Union minister Venkaiah Naidu said: “I hope the Delhi government gives up its confrontationist attitude towards the Centre and starts focusing on civic issues concerning Delhi.”
Since coming to power in February 2015, the AAP government and the L-G have clashed over appointments, file clearances and control of the police, who report to the Centre.
The AAP says the L-G is trying to rule by proxy, at the Centre’s behest. Jung accuses the state government of disregarding established protocol.
The tussle is rooted in Delhi’s unique position as a Union Territory functioning as the Capital, with the state government having no say over important departments like law and order and agencies such as the Delhi Development Authority.
“On a reading of articles 239 and 239AA (special provisions to Delhi) of the Constitution together with the provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991... it becomes manifest that Delhi continues to be a Union Territory,” a high court bench headed by chief justice G Rohini said.
It said matters related to “services” fell outside the purview of the legislative assembly, limiting the government’s powers to appointing central government officials.
The fight reached the high court after the AAP government challenged two central notifications that gave the L-G absolute powers in appointing bureaucrats in the Capital and limited the ACB’s jurisdiction to Delhi government officials.
Thursday’s ruling came after year-long hearings on nine cases that arose out of this dispute.
Matters came to a head with the AAP setting up commissions of inquiry into the CNG scam — where it demanded that Jung and former CM Sheila Dikshit be questioned — and the Delhi and District Cricket Association’s functioning — where it alleged financial bungling during Union minister Arun Jaitley’s tenure as its chief.
The BJP’s Vijender Gupta, opposition leader in the assembly, said he hoped the verdict will put an end to unnecessary litigation.