A five-judge Supreme Court bench on July 4, 2018 unanimously held that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi is bound by the “aid and advice” of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Government and both have to work harmoniously with each other.
The bench noted that there is no room for anarchy or absolutism in a democracy. The real authority to take decisions lies in the elected government.
Highlights of the ruling
• The bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.K. Sikri, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and A.M. Khanwilkar held that except for issues of public order, police and land, the Lieutenant Governor is bound by the “aid and advice of the Delhi government, which has the public mandate.”
• There is no independent authority with the LG to take decisions except in matters under Article 239 or those outside the purview of the National Capital Territory (NCT) government.
• Every difference of opinion between the LG and the NCT government cannot be referred to the President for a decision. The issues referred should be of substantive or national importance.
• Even in case of differences of opinion, the LG and the NCT government should act with constitutional morality and trust for each other. The LG cannot act without applying his mind and refer everything to the President.
• The Delhi Government only needs to inform its well-deliberated decisions to the LG. The government need not obtain his approval in every issue.
• Both the sides should work to avoid the Constitutional discord. There is a need for real discipline and wisdom.
• The governance of the National Capital demands a “meaningful orchestration of democracy” and a “collaborative federal architecture.”
What led to this ruling?
The ruling came following the prolonged spat between the Delhi LG Anil Baijal and the Kejriwal Government on various issues, from a freeze on appointment of bureaucrats to mohalla clinic staff to school teachers.
A freeze on government decisions by the LG negates the very concept of “collective responsibility”. Collective responsibility means government speaking in one voice to the people.
Delhi not a ‘State’
The CJI, however, stuck to the nine-judge Bench judgment of the Supreme Court in the NDMC versus State of Punjab to conclude that Delhi is not a ‘State.’ The judgment also held that the Lieutenant Governor is not a Governor but only an “administrator in a limited sense.”
The real power lies with the elected representatives in a democracy. They owe responsibility to the legislature. There has to be a mixed balance as Delhi is the National Capital.
The Supreme Court judgment came on appeals filed by the Delhi Government against an August 4, 2016 judgment of the Delhi High Court which had held that LG was the “administrative head” of Delhi.
The court has declared that the LG had “complete control of all matters regarding National Capital Territory of Delhi and nothing will happen without the concurrence of the LG.”
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