New Delhi, Nov 2 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday indicated that it may fix a time frame within which the Delhi Lt. Governor should dispose of the files sent to him by the state government and in case of delay in clearing files, he will have to assign reasons.
The five judge constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan said this while in its preliminary observation said that the entire scheme of the democratic governance of Delhi was tilted in favour of Lt. Governor.
The daylong hearing saw judges questioning senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the city’s state ruling Aam Aadmi Party, who argued that the Lt. Governor was exercising his powers in a manner to stultify the functioning of a democratically-elected government.
What emerged during the daylong hearing was that Delhi government can’t look at in the area of law and order, police and land, and the in the area where it can enact law and aid and advise the Lt. Governor, the latter can exercise his veto and citing differences, refer the matter to the President for decision. There were also some grey areas where the Delhi government had no footprints.
Not agreeing to the argument that Council of Ministers can aid and advise the Lt. Governor on every issue, Chief Justice Misra said that it can only do do on which legislature (Delhi assembly) can enact laws.
Justice Chandrachud said that the President exercises his administrative control over Union Territory through Lt Governor, and if there are specific instances of excesses, then the court can address them.
Justice Bhushan too asked Subramanium to be specific and cite instances of Lt. Governor standing in the way of Delhi government.
Subramanium cited the instances of Lt. Governor holding meeting with the officials without the presence of Ministers concerned and issuing instructions. He also said that the Lt. Governor is sitting over the files sent by the Council of Ministers and in some cases, for over a year, citing the instance the matter where the Delhi government had decided to increase minimum wages from Rs 9,000 to Rs 15,000.
As Subramanium sought to blame Lt. Governor for creating hurdles in the functioning of Delhi government, Justice Chandrachud said that every government has to function within the parameters of the constitution and the Article 239AA defines the powers of Delhi government and Union Territory.
He also said that there are areas where Lt. Governor enjoys delegated powers and he alone is administrator in respect of them. In other areas he would act on the aid and advise of the Council of Minister but in the event of difference he would refer the matter to President.
The bench also pointed to the financial relationship between the Central government and the Union Territory of Delhi that was distinct from the relationship that it has with other states, saying that Centre has more involvement in the financial affairs of Delhi.
Sensing where the bench was driving at, Subramanium said that the Delhi government too was raising its resources.
The constitution bench is hearing Delhi government’s appeal challenging the Delhi High Court verdict holding that the Lt. Governor had the primacy over the elected government in administration of the national capital.
The matter was referred to the constitution bench by the bench of Justice Sikri and Justice R.K.Agrawal on February 15.
While not framing the questions to be adjudicated by the Constitution Bench, the court had then asked both the Union government and the Arvind Kejriwal government to argue their respective cases before the larger bench.
The hearing by the two judge bench on Delhi government’s appeals had seen the court favouring a balance in the exercise of powers by the Delhi government and the Lt. Governor for good governance.
Delhi was given an assembly and an elected government through Article 239 (AA) incorporated in the Constitution by the 69th amendment in 1991.
Hearing will continue on November 7.
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