The Supreme Court is likely to settle the debate around Delhi’s statehood soon as it starts hearing on Friday a plea by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government seeking to resolve a tussle with the Centre for the reins of the Capital.
The Kejriwal government had filed this suit in the SC when its plea was still pending before the Delhi high court, which ruled against the AAP administration on Thursday and said lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung was the city’s administrative boss.
But the SC might re-examine a whole host of similar issues surrounding statehood for Delhi.
During the hearing, the city government is expected to ask for stay on the high court’s Thursday ruling.
If it succeeds, the debate around statehood for the city will erupt again. If it fails, the AAP administration will have to route all its decisions through the L-G, as mandated by the HC.
The hearing is crucial as the verdict in the case will resolve, once and for all, a decades-long dispute around Delhi’s status, which has been a political issue in every assembly election.
The conflict arises from Delhi’s unique position as a union territory acting as the national capital, where important departments and agencies are not under the city government. This, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, alleges undermines the elected administration and is responsible for shoddy law and order.
He says his administration is helpless in matters relating to policing and land as he doesn’t even have the power to appoint bureaucrats of his choice. The Centre has to clear all such appointments.
The Delhi government had tried earlier to convince the top court to transfer cases from the high court to the SC, saying the questions raised in the petitions were federal in nature. But the apex court refused to stop the Delhi HC from delivering its verdict, which said the Centre-appointed L-G has administrative control over the union territory.
But there is one big hurdle before the Delhi government even before the suit can be heard by the SC.
The Constitution allows direct filing of civil suits in the SC only in cases related to conflict between two states or a state and the Centre. The petition claims the national capital territory of Delhi is a federal unit.
But the Arvind Kejriwal government will have to convince the SC that it’s a state and it is legally permissible to invoke the top court’s jurisdiction to resolve the dispute. This contention has been vehemently opposed by the Centre.
In the petition, the Delhi Government has opposed a home ministry notification stopping the anti-corruption bureau from investigating central government officers.
If SC declares Delhi a state, then the AAP government will have to argue that the Centre’s notification impacted its legal rights.