New Delhi: In a setback to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government, the Delhi high court on Thursday upheld the administrative powers of the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) in matters of land, law and order and police in the national capital territory of Delhi.
The judgment comes at a time when Delhi chief minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal is away for 10 days for vipasana (meditation therapy). AAP leaders, meanwhile, said that the government will appeal in the Supreme Court.
“Directions under the notification granting independent decision making power to the Lt. Governor, neither illegal nor unconstitutional,” said G. Rohini, Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, while pronouncing the order.
The court emphasized on the administrative capacity of the L-G, while holding that Delhi should be seen as a Union Territory under Article 239AA of the Constitution and Transaction of Business Rules.
In accordance with this, several cases where inquiry had been initiated by the state government without concurrence with the L-G were dismissed and held illegal. All notifications passed to effect the same were struck down under the court’s orders.
These included Delhi government’s inquiry into the alleged scam involving the issuance of compressed natural gas or CNG fitness certificates to vehicles and the probe into the alleged malpractices and irregularities in the functioning of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), among others.
“Any policy related decision of Delhi’s council of ministers would have to seek approval of the Lt. Governor,” it was held.
The issue arose with the passing of a notification by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) on 21 May, which replaced a 1998 notification on the powers of the L-G and the Delhi government.
The 1998 notification said that in matters of public order, police and services, the L-G of Delhi would consult the chief minister, and in cases otherwise, the reasons would be recorded. The new notification, however, said that in police and other service matters, the L-G could make decisions independently.
This led to a face-off between the Central government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the AAP-led Delhi government over various issues, including bureaucratic appointments. Delhi is a special state wherein matters of law, order and land come under the central home ministry.
Challenging the MHA notification, while claiming that it extended unprecedented power to the L-G, the Delhi government moved the Delhi high court in May 2015.
Senior leaders of the AAP, however, said that the party will move the apex court.
“Delhi government disagrees with the decision of the hon’ble Delhi High Court on powers distribution and will challenge the HC verdict in SC,” said a spokesperson of the Delhi government.
“The Delhi government has previously been stopped from taking action against corruption and this has been upheld. We will take this to the apex court. Will have to see the final order,” said Delhi home minister Satyendra Jain.
As the matter proceeded to be heard, several pleas which arose from the jurisdiction tussle between Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung and the state government over distribution of powers were brought before the court.
The Centre had claimed that under Article 239 AA, which carved out special provisions for Delhi, it was a Union territory. The office of the L-G is different from that of a Governor, as he is the executive head of the state, it was maintained.
On the other hand, the Delhi government contended that the L-G could not have the discretion of taking independent decisions and had to take the advice of the council of ministers in matters within the purview of land, police and public order.
Responding to today’s judgment, Ajay Maken, president of Congress’ Delhi unit, wrote on Twitter, “High Court rules against Kejriwal Government! Upheld Lieutenant Governor notifications- LG-Kejriwal spat wasted 18 months-brought Delhi to a standstill”.
On 1 July this year, the Delhi government moved the Supreme Court, seeking a stay on the Delhi high court’s proceedings in the tussle between the Centre and the city-state.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Delhi government, said that an authoritative ruling by the apex court was required on whether Delhi can be considered a state under the Constitution.
A bench headed by justice Dipak Misra, however, restrained from any interference by the apex court on the issue, since the judgment at that point in time had been reserved by the Delhi high court.