New Delhi, July 4: The Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that Delhi’s Lt Governor was constitutionally bound by the “aid and advice” of the elected government — a decision hailed by the ruling AAP as historic and which ends a bitter power tussle over the capital’s administrative control and governance. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the real powers of governance in Delhi rested with its elected representatives and their opinion and decisions ought to be respected.
The ruling overturned an earlier Delhi High Court verdict which had declared the Lt Governor as the head of the Delhi administration, triggering an ugly war between the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party. The court said the Lt. Governor, appointed by the central government, was bound by the aid and advice of the Ministers of the city government in all areas except land, police and public order or where he refers the matter to the President citing difference of opinion.
Chief Justice Misra, also speaking for Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, wrote that the Lt. Governor was not vested with any independent decision-making powers and cannot act in a “mechanical manner without due application of mind” in referring decisions of the government citing differences. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been leading the campaign seeking more powers for his government, hailed the court verdict as “a big victory for the people of Delhi, a big victory for democracy”.
Kejriwal and his cabinet have had constant run-ins with Lt Governors — Najeeb Jung earlier and his successor Anil Baijal — who were accused of stalling key policy decisions of the city government. The dispute stems out of the status of Delhi. The city is a Union Territory and not a full state. As a result, some areas are under the control of the central government represented by the Lt. Governor. But the AAP argued that the Lt Governor, under pressure from the Modi government, kept on nullifying the city government’s decisions, resulting in Kejriwal and three of his ministers launch a sit-in at Baijal’s office-cum-residence last month for eight days. Amid the crisis, Chief Ministers of four non-BJP ruled states backed Kejriwal. (IANS)