The Supreme Court today said it would look into the plea for early setting up of a constitution bench to hear AAP government’s appeals against the high court verdict holding LG as the administrative head of Delhi. The matter was mentioned by the Delhi government before a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar who said, “we will see whether it will come up before or after the summer vacations.” Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, representing Delhi government, told the bench that this matter has been referred to a five-judge constitution bench and the court, while referring the matter, had “acknowledged that it is an urgent matter”. He told the bench, also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul, that the court had given them the liberty to mention the matter before the Chief Justice for early setting up of the constitution bench.
On February 15, a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and R K Agrawal had referred a batch of pleas filed by the AAP government against the high court verdict, which had held that Delhi is not a state and that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) is its administrative head, to a Constitution Bench. The bench had said that important questions of law and the Constitution are involved in the matter and it should be adjudicated upon by a Constitution Bench. However, it did not frame questions to be deliberated upon by the Constitution Bench, to be set up by Chief Justice J S Khehar, in the matter and had asked the Centre and the Delhi government to argue their case before the larger bench.
The Delhi government had on February 2 told the apex court that it has exclusive executive powers in relation to matters falling within the purview of the Legislative Assembly and neither the Centre nor the President or the LG can encroach upon these. The apex court, however, had said that it is correct that the elected government should have some powers but whether it will be as per the Delhi High Court verdict or as it is being perceived by the Delhi government needed to be looked into. The city government had told the bench that the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), except for public order, land and police, possesses exclusive powers in relation to all other entries in state and concurrent lists and neither the central government nor the President or the LG has any role or power with regard to all other matters.
“We are seeking only the special status as contemplated under Article 239AA of the Constitution. It is a narrow issue but requires interpretation. We need to see what are the limitation and amplitude of the LG’s power under the Article 239AA,” it had said. The Constitution has given a face and identity to a government in Delhi after inclusion of Article 239AA and the executive decisions taken and implemented by it cannot be reversed by the LG, it had contended. The government, through its counsel and senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, had said that the LG cannot exercise its power with respect to services as it does not fall under the purview of the Centre under the state list.
The AAP government had said that since the law rules out the LG’s discretion on all matters that fall within the purview of the elected government, there is no occasion for him to differ or have an opinion on these matters. The apex court had on December 14 observed that the Delhi government should have some powers otherwise it cannot function while hearing the appeals of the city government. On September 9, the apex court had refused to grant an interim stay on the verdict of the Delhi High Court of August 4 last year.