The Centre has five weeks to decide whether Delhi gets an alternative government or goes for fresh elections.
Asking why the assembly continued to be kept in suspended animation, the Supreme Court on Tuesday told the Narendra Modi government to decide on its dissolution 'one way or another', adding that legislators cannot sit idle at the expense of taxpayers.
“You are not in a position to form government. You are paying salary to elected members while they do no work. You are not doing any service to anyone. Why should the people suffer? Therefore, you take a decision,” a constitution bench headed by justice HL Dattu said during the hearing of the Aam Admi Party’s (AAP) petition seeking dissolution of the House. It fixed the next hearing for September 9.
“Convey our feelings to the government. You are paying taxpayer’s money to elected lawmakers. I am a citizen of Delhi. I want them to serve me. Take a decision at the earliest,” justice Dattu told additional solicitor general PS Narasimha. It disagreed with Narasimha’s contention that the life of the assembly was 60 months and that it had been only four months since Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP government stepped down — within 49 days of its formation.
The court said it was thinking from the point of view of a citizen of Delhi and not looking at any party. “This can’t go on. One party does not have the strength. Another does not have the desire. The third has no numbers. Why should the people suffer when elected members sit at home? You have to take a view. Either the existing House must be allowed to function or a new House elected.”
Delhi has been under President’s rule since February 17, after Kejriwal quit in protest against the lieutenant governor’s refusal to allow introduction of the janlokpal bill — AAP’s main poll plank — in the assembly.
Appearing for AAP, senior counsel Fali S Nariman said the Congress and BJP were “hemming and hawing but not saying if they would form government”, adding that “the court has to break this silence”. He added, “There is just no prospect of a government being formed. In a representative form of government, you can’t extend (presidential proclamation) forever.”
“Why has the government not asked the parties to give a written statement?... I’m afraid it amounts to a political game... to wage till defections take place,” said senior AAP leader Yogendra Yadav.
The BJP claimed the court’s view was not different from its stand. “Our party wants the people of Delhi to get an elected government as soon as possible and for development work to start,” said Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay.
He blamed AAP and the Congress for the current state of affairs, saying, “When these parties formed the government in Delhi, the BJP had clarified that we do not have the required majority, and only then did these parties get the opportunity to form government. But Arvind Kejriwal took populist decisions for cheap popularity in place of concrete steps for the people and started dreaming about becoming PM.”
The Congress’ Mukesh Sharma said, “Delhi should get an elected government as soon as possible. If re-elections are delayed, the election commission will have to conduct by-elections to three seats that have fallen vacant after the election of three BJP MLAs to Parliament. This will put an additional burden on the public exchequer. The Congress is prepared for elections now.”
BJP had emerged the single largest party after the assembly polls in December last year with 32 seats including ally Akali Dal's one MLA in the 70-member House.
BJP fell four seats short of a simple majority and had refused to form government, saying it did not have the numbers and will not resort to any "unfair means" to take the reins.
AAP with 28 MLAs had later formed the government with support of eight Congress MLAs. AAP's strength has also come down to 27 after expulsion of party MLA Vinod Kumar Binny.
BJP's number came down to 28 in the House in May after three of its legislators Harsh Vardhan, Ramesh Bidhuri and Pervesh Verma were elected to Lok Sabha. With the resignation of three MLAs, the strength of the assembly also went down to 67.