New Delhi, Nov 8 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday was told that Delhi Lt. Governor was bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers and the constitution was a politico-legal document whose interpretation should reflect the aspiration of the people.
Senior counsel P. Chidambaram told the five judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that the Lt. Governor has to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, telling the court that the Constitution’s Article 239AA (spelling special provision for Delhi) has to be read conjointly with Section 44 of the GNCT Act, 1991.
As he argued that the interpretation of Article 239AA has to reflect the inspiration of the people, the court itself, on the third day of the hearing on the powers of the Delhi government vis-a-vis the Lt. Governor, said that the actions of the Lt. Governor can’t be an impediment to the day-to-day functioning of the government.
Observing that the Lt. Governor can’t have difference of opinion for the sake of difference of opinion, the court said that responsibility conferred on the Lt. Governor is not absolute. The Lt. Governor can’t say no to a decision of the Council of Ministers or send it to the President.
Ordinarily, there should not be any difference of opinion between the Lt. Governor and the Council of Ministers if the latter’s decision is within the parameters of constitutional sanction, the court said that Article 239AA can’t be acted upon in a vacuum.
Addressing the constitution bench which also comprises Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, Chidambaram said: “Article 239AA was brought about in the constitution by way of a very special majority of the members of parliament and any interpretation of the constitution must advance the ‘principle of democratic governance’.
“Your (court’s) interpretation has to advance democracy and not diminish democracy. It (interpretation of Article 239AA by the court) should enrich democracy and not weaken it, said the former Union Minister, cautioning the constitution bench from looking at the constitutional provision in a strict sense.
He stressed that the Lt. Governor was a representative of President, to the extent he is empowered to act.
Chidambaram also argued that in case of differences between the Lt. Governor and the Council of Ministers, the former can’t automatically forward the matter for decision to the President. He said that as a first step, Lt. Governor has to seek clarification from the Delhi government and if he is still not satisfied, then he can refer the matter to the President for decision.
The Lt. Governor can’t sit over the decision taken by the Council of Ministers nor can he automatically refer it to the President, he said.
The constitution bench is hearing a batch of petitions by Delhi government and others challenging Delhi High Court order holding that the Lt. Governor held the primacy and had final say in the administration of Delhi.
Chidambaram will continue his arguments on Thursday.
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