In a big blow to the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government, the Delhi High Court on Thursday held that Delhi continues to remain a union territory under the Constitution with the lieutenant governor (LG) as its administrative head.
Bringing an end to months-long turf war between LG Najeeb Jung and Kejriwal for the reins of Delhi, the division bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini said that the special constitutional provision Article 239AA dealing with Delhi does not “dilute” the effect of Article 239, which relates to the Union Territory (UT), and hence concurrence of the LG in administrative issues is “mandatory.”
This means that Delhi, even if it has an elected Assembly and a chief minister, does not have powers like other states.
In its 194-page judgement, the court said that “On a reading of Article 239 and Article 239AA of the Constitution together with the provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 and the Transaction of Business of the Government of NCT of Delhi Rules, 1993, it becomes manifest that Delhi continues to be a UT even after the Constitution (69th Amendment) Act, 1991 inserting Article 239AA making special provisions with respect to Delhi.”
However, the HC agreed with the Delhi government’s submission that the LG will have to act on its aid and advice in appointment of special public prosecutors.
With Thursday’s decision, a series of moves made by the Delhi government such as commissions of inquiry into the CNG fitness scam, Delhi and District Cricket Association illegalities, policy directions to electricity regulatory commission for compensation to people for disruption in power supply, have been declared illegal since the same were made without the approval or views of the LG.
The court also held as illegal the appointment of nominee directors of government of NCT of Delhi on board of BSES Rajdhani Power, BSES Yamuna Power and Tata Power Delhi Distribution by the Delhi Power Company on the basis of the recommendations of the chief minister of Delhi without communicating the decision to the lieutenant governor of NCT of Delhi for his views. It also termed as “illegal and unconstitutional” the policy decision of the city government empowering the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission to impose fine on distribution companies in the event of disruption of power supply on the ground that the LG was not on board.
The AAP government’s decision to revise stamp duty rates for sale and transfer of agriculture land was also struck down. The bench also upheld the notification of the Centre that the the Anti-Corruption Branch police station shall not take any cognizance of offences against officers, employees and functionaries of the Central government.
Dismissing a bunch of nine petitions centred around common issues relating to the exercise of legislative power and executive control in the administration of NCTD, it further said that it is mandatory under the constitutional scheme to communicate the decision of the council of ministers to the lieutenant governor even in relation to the matters in respect of which power to make laws has been conferred on the legislative Assembly of NCT of Delhi.
Welcoming the judgment, Lt Governor Najeeb Jung said the HC ruling that he is the “administrative head” of Delhi is neither a victory for him nor a defeat for chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Its crux is to govern the city as per the provisions in the Constitution, Jung said. He always wanted to protect the provisions of the Constitution and did not agree to the AAP government’s decisions when he found they were at variance with the laid down norms.
“It is not a victory of anyone. It is not a win for Najeeb Jung and loss for Arvind Kejriwal. The court order is a kind of clarification that incorrect things will have to be corrected,” he said.
Jung said the verdict clarified that matters related to services will have to be handled by the lieutenant governor and that the Centre’s concurrence was not necessary on certain issues and he can take calls on them.
AAP leader Raghav Chadha said the HC verdict will be challenged in the Supreme Court, adding that “a democratically-elected government cannot be undermined. This isn’t a fight for supremacy, but democracy”.
“If the Delhi government cannot take decisions in favour of the people, then what is the use of an elected government?” AAP’s Delhi state unit convenor Dilip Pandey said.