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Over to Rd 2: SC to separately decide on contentious issues between Centre and AAP govt

The SC clarified the status of Delhi and the role of the L-G but the Constitution bench did not go into issues such as services and jurisdiction of the ACB.

delhi Updated: Jul 05, 2018 07:56 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,Verdict,Arvind Kejriwal
Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Anil Baijal, and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court held that Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal does not have independent decision-making powers, and is bound to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. (PTI FILE)

A five-judge constitution bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra on Wednesday outlined the broad constitutional contours of the unique status of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

The three concurrent judgments do not go into specific issues that have become a bone of contention between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the lieutenant-governor (L-G), whom the party has accused of acting partially at the Centre’s behest.

The validity of individual notifications – two by the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) and two by the Delhi government – and policy decisions related to setting up of commissions of enquiry into the alleged CNG fitness scam and allegations of malpractices in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) would now be taken up separately by a regular bench.

“Matters be placed before the appropriate regular bench,” said Misra, who authored the main verdict on behalf of justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar.

“The reference shall stand answered in the above terms and the proceedings shall now be placed before the learned CJI for appropriate directions in regard to the constitution of the bench to decide the matters,” justice DY Chandrachud said while writing a separate but supporting opinion.

Similarly, Justice Ashok Bhushan noted a regular bench will hear the disputes arising between the two parties.

The SC’s Wednesday ruling said the Constitution does not entrust independent decision-making powers to the L-G and his concurrence is not required by the democratically-elected Arvind Kejriwal government.

The judgment came on a reference made to the constitution bench by a two-judge bench in February 2017 while hearing appeals against the Delhi high court’s verdict. The HC had quashed Delhi government notifications ordering two commissions of inquiry and policy decisions that were taken without seeking the LG’s approval.

Two MHA notifications that gave the L-G the power to transfer Delhi government bureaucrats and also exempted central government officers from an inquiry by the state’s anti-corruption branch were upheld by the HC.

After interpreting the constitutional provisions, the law governing Delhi and business rules, the top court has held the L-G cannot act as an obstructionist. The court said both the L-G and the government must work in a harmonious atmosphere within the given constitutional parameters.

Now, based on the legal principles outlined by the constitution bench, a regular bench of two judges will hear both sides to decide on the legality of the notifications and government orders.

The notifications to be tested:

*MHA’s notification of May 21, 2015 that said the L-G shall in respect of matters connected with “services” exercises the powers and discharges the functions of the central government to the extent delegated to him from time to time. The high court also held the same as legal and constitutional.

* MHA’s July 7, 2014 notification that the anti-corruption branch of the Delhi shall not take any cognisance of offences against officers, employees and functionaries of the Centre. The HC had declared that the notification was in accordance to the constitutional scheme.

*The August 11, 2015 notification appointing a commission of inquiry for inquiring into all aspects of the award of work related to grant of CNG fitness certificates in the transport department. The HC had held this as illegal because it was issued without taking the L-G’s views.

*The December 22, 2015 notification appointing a commission of inquiry to probe the allegations of irregularities in the DDCA declared illegal by the HC.

*The Delhi government’s decision to appoint nominee directors on the board of BSES Rajdhani Power Limited, BSES Yamuna Power Limited and Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited by the Delhi Power Company Limited on the CM’s recommendations. The HC quashed this decision.

*The Delhi government’s direction to the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission regarding disruption of electricity supply to consumers. This too was set aside by the HC as unconstitutional since it was not approved by the L-G.

*The Delhi government’s revenue department’s notification revising minimum rates for charging stamp duty on instruments related to the sale/transfer of agriculture land. The HC declared it illegal as it was without LG’s nod.

*On the appointment of special public prosecutors for arguing sensitive cases, the HC had said the L-G is competent to appoint but such a power has to exercised by the aid and advice of the council of ministers.

First Published: Jul 05, 2018 07:55 IST