The Delhi government requested the Supreme Court today to set up a five-judge Constitution bench at the earliest to decide its pleas challenging the Delhi High Court verdict that the Lieutenant Governor is the administrative head of the national capital territory. A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul told senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the Delhi government, that it may consider setting up of the bench soon, “possibly” after the summer vacation.
Subramaniam mentioned the matter before the bench and said that the appeals have been referred to the CJI for setting up of a larger bench to deal with various constitutional issues. The apex court had on February 15 referred to a Constitution bench a batch of pleas filed by the AAP government against the high court verdict, which had held that Delhi is not a state and that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) is its administrative head. The top court had said that important questions of law and the Constitution are involved in the matter and it should be adjudicated upon by a Constitution Bench.
However, it did not frame questions to be deliberated upon by the Constitution bench in the matter and had asked the Centre and the Delhi government to argue their case before the larger bench. The Delhi government had on February 2 told the court that it has exclusive executive powers in relation to matters falling within the purview of the Legislative Assembly and neither the Centre nor the President or the LG can encroach upon these.
The apex court had said that it was correct that the elected government should have some powers but whether it would be as per the Delhi High Court verdict or as it was being perceived by the Delhi government needed to be looked into. The city government had told the bench that the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), except for public order, land and police, possesses exclusive powers in relation to all other entries in State and Concurrent lists of the Constitution and that neither the central government nor the President or the LG has any role or power with regard to all other matters.
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“We are seeking only the special status as contemplated under Article 239AA of the Constitution. It is a narrow issue but requires interpretation. We need to see what are the limitation and amplitude of the LG’s power under the Article 239AA,” it had said. The Constitution has given a face and identity to a government in Delhi after inclusion of Article 239AA and the executive decisions taken and implemented by it cannot be reversed by the LG, it had contended. The AAP government had said that the LG cannot exercise its power with respect to services as it does not fall under the purview of the Centre under the State list.
The AAP government had said that since the law rules out the LG’s discretion on all matters that fall within the purview of the elected government, there is no occasion for him to differ or have an opinion on these matters. The apex court had on December 14 observed that the Delhi government should have some powers otherwise it cannot function while hearing the appeals of the city government. On September 9, the apex court had refused to grant an interim stay on the verdict of the Delhi High Court of August 4 last year.