In a moral victory for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in his power tussle with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the LG has no independent power to make decisions and is bound by the elected government’s advice.
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.”
- The L-G is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. In case of difference of opinion, the L-G should straightaway refer the dispute to the President for a final decision.
- The Lieutenant-Governor should act as a “facilitator” for good governance in the national capital and not as an “obstructionist”.
- The Lieutenant-Governor’s authority, saying he cannot exercise his discretion in “each and every matter” of daily governance. His discretionary powers are in fact limited to only matters in the State List — public order, police, and land — over which the legislative power of the Delhi Legislative Assembly stand excluded under Article 239AA.
- The NCT government need only to inform the L-G of its “well-deliberated” decisions. The government need not obtain his “concurrence” on every issue of day-to-day governance.
- The elected government could make policies on laws enacted by its own Assembly. The executive power of the NCT government was co-extensive with its legislative powers.
Why can Delhi not be a full-fledged state? The Supreme Court followed the 1987 Balakrishnan report to conclude that Delhi is not a State. Balakrishnan report had 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.”
Delhi as the national capital belongs to the nation as a whole. if Delhi becomes 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”.
L-G’s role is not that of a Constitutional figurehead, though the ultimate responsibility for good administration of Delhi is vested in the President acting through the Administrator. However, the Administrator has to take a somewhat more active part in the administration than the Governor of a State.
Hence, differences of opinion would arise between the L-G and the elected government. The report had recommended that the “best way” of doing this is to let the L-G refer such differences of opinion to the President for a final decision.