Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, hailed the Supreme Court’s verdict, this Wednesday, on the power struggle between the Delhi government and the centre and called it a “big victory” for the people of Delhi and for the democracy. “A big victory for the people of Delhi…a big victory for democracy…”, Arvind Kejriwal tweeted a few minutes after the verdict.
A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority judgement, ruled that though Delhi is not a state, the elected government has the final power in all areas except land, police and public order. It said that the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) is bound by the aid and advice of the NCT (National Capital Territory) government in areas other than those exempted. It also said that the L-G does not have an independent decision-making powers.
“NO ROOM FOR ANARCHY”
The bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, observed and decided that the Lieutenant Governor has no independent or executive power and is bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers, and must work harmoniously with the government. So, there’s no room for absolutism or anarchy, he said.
This decision is a major victory for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP government which has been in a constant tug of war with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and earlier with Najeeb Jung, the ex Governor of Delhi, over the power wielded by the two branches of the executive. Sheila Dikshit, former Chief Minister of Delhi, said, “I think what the SC has said is very clear. As per Article 239 (AA) of the Constitution, Delhi is not a state, it is a Union Territory. If Delhi government and L-G don’t work together then Delhi will face problems. Congress ruled Delhi for 15 years, no conflict took place then.”
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Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however, observed that the L-G needed to be kept informed of all decisions. But this, he added, didn’t mean that his concurrence was required. Justice DY Chandrachud said that nations fail when democratic institutions fail, and that society like India’s – one with a diverse culture – requires dialogue. He commented that differences must not affect the responsibility politicians and administrators have towards the people while observing the case. He added by saying that while referring to the differences, the LG must take a responsible approach. The real power and accountability, he observed, is with the elected government.
The Supreme Court said that except for three issues, including land and law and order, the Delhi government has the power to legislate and govern on other issues. Reacting to the judgement, BJP’s Nalin Kohli said that AAP’s demand for full statehood was rejected and that the judgement was anything but a victory.
BJP’s Subramanian Swamy said, “Yes, what SC said is correct that LG must respect Delhi cabinet decisions but if any anti-national security or anti-constitutional decision is taken, which they are capable of taking, as they are Naxalite type people, then L-G can oppose.”
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Reading out the decision, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that obeying the constitution is everybody’s duty and responsibility. He added, “The Lieutenant Governor must work harmoniously with the state,” and said that the L-G and council of ministers have to be constantly aligned.