Delhi Power Tussle : SC Verdict

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously held that Lieutenant-Governor is bound by the aid and advice of the Delhi government.
  • The judgment came on appeals filed by the NCT government against an August 4, 2016, verdict of the Delhi High Court, which had declared that the L-G has complete control of all matters regarding the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and nothing will happen without the concurrence of the L-G.
SC Verdict:
  • Lieutenant-Governor is bound by the aid and advice of the Delhi government, except for issues of public order, police and land.
  • In case of difference of opinion, the L-G should straightaway refer the dispute to the President for a final decision without sitting over it or stultifying the governance in the National Capital.
  • It concluded that the governance of Delhi cannot rest upon the whims of one functionary — the Lieutenant-Governor.
  • Real authority to take decisions lie in the elected government. This is the meaning of ‘aid and advice’.
  • There is no independent authority with the LG to take decisions except in matters under Article 239 (every Union territory shall be administered by the President) or those outside the purview of the NCT government.
  • Every trivial difference of opinion between the LG and the NCT government cannot be referred to the President for a decision. The issues referred should be of substantive or national importance.
  • Elected representatives would be reduced to a cipher if ‘any matter’ in Art 239AA (4) is interpreted as every matter of governance.
  • A reference to the President was only an exception and not the general rule.
  • In this context, even in case of differences of opinion, the LG and the NCT government should act with constitutional morality and trust for each other. LG cannot act without applying his mind and refer everything to the President.
  • The NCT government need only to inform the LG of its well-deliberated decisions. The government need not obtain his concurrence in every issue of day-to-day governance.
  • Freeze on government decisions by the LG negates the very concept of collective responsibility. The governance of the National Capital demands a meaningful orchestration of democracy and a collaborative federal architecture.
  • Collective responsibility means the government speaking in one voice to the people whose aspirations the govt reflects.
SC on the question of Statehood :
  • SC opined that a mixed balance has to be struck considering the special status of the Delhi and fundamental concerns as Delhi is the National Capital.
  • Delhi as the national capital belongs to the nation as a whole.
  • The Supreme Court followed the 1987 Balakrishnan report to conclude that Delhi is not a State.
  • The report envisaged that Delhi could not have a situation in which the national capital had two governments run by different political parties. Such conflicts may, at times, prejudice the national interest.
  • The report foresaw that if Delhi became a full-fledged State, there would be a constitutional division of sovereign, legislative and executive powers between the Union and the State of Delhi.
  • Parliament would have limited legislative access and that too only in special and emergency situations.
  • The Union would be unable to discharge its special responsibilities in relation to the national capital as well as to the nation itself.
  • The report said the control of the Union over Delhi was vital in the national interest.

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