[Premium] SC Verdict on Delhi Government Vs Lieutenant Governor

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Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court recently held that the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) is bound by the aid and advice of the Delhi government.
  • This judgement was given with respect to the appeals filed by the Delhi government against a 2016 Delhi High Court verdict that declared the L-G has complete control over all matters concerned with the government of Delhi.

What is the background of the issue?

  • Although a Union Territory, Delhi is not administered by the President through the LG under Article 239 but under Article 239 AA which was incorporated in 1992.
  • Article 239 AA gave Delhi a special constitutional status as follows
    • It has the elected assembly with powers to enact laws
    • A council of ministers responsible to the assembly.
    • It could legislate on matters under the state and concurrent lists with exceptions such as public order, police and land which are reserved for LG.
  • This special set up worked well for a long time mainly due to the same party held office at the Centre as well as Delhi for much of the years.
  • However, things changed when different governments ruled the Delhi and the Centre. It was further complicated when the Delhi HC verdict declared that the only decision-making authority in Delhi would be LG.
  • This prompted the Delhi government to file appeals against the HC verdict in SC and demands statehood.

What are the key highlights of the verdict?

The verdict on the relationship between Delhi and LG

  • In case of conflict or dispute between LG and the state, the LG should immediately refer the matter with the President.
  • L-G has not been entrusted with any independent decision-making powers and therefore should work harmoniously with the aid and advice of the Ministers or implement the decisions taken by the President.
  • However, L-G is restricted to take the only important dispute to the President. It could encompass issues such as finance and policy and should have the impact on the status of the national capital or the vital interests of the Centre.

The verdict on the statehood issue

  • SC followed the 1987 Balakrishnan Committee report to conclude that Delhi is not a state. Key recommendations of the report as follows.
    • Delhi as a national capital belongs to the nation as a whole.
    • Delhi could not have a situation where two governments run different political parties as it may affect the national interest.
    • Control of Union over Delhi was vital in the national interest.

Also Read: SC Verdict on Section 377 – The Restoration of Right to Free Speech & Expression

How is the verdict significant?

  • The verdict would end the long-standing tussle among LG and Delhi government. This would curb the existing issues and obstacles in the efficient functioning of the government and would improve governance of Delhi.
  • It provides a clarification that an elected government cannot be undermined by an unelected administrator.
  • It restores the primary role played by the representative government in Delhi.
  • It upholds the provisions of Indian constitution with respect to executive and administrative powers of ministers of Delhi.
  • It establishes constitutional morality and trust among high functionaries in the government.
  • It will set a precedent to hamper any authoritarian and reckless use of power by constitutionally appointed authorities in the future.