The Asian Voice

Let Delhi function: The Statesman columnist

In a landmark judgement, India's Supreme Court ruled that the Lieutenant Governor has no independent power to take decisions and is bound by the elected government's advice.
In a landmark judgement, India's Supreme Court ruled that the Lieutenant Governor has no independent power to take decisions and is bound by the elected government's advice.PHOTO: AFP

In the commentary, the writer says the tussle over who has the final say over the running of the capital city continues despite a Supreme Court verdict.

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Supreme Court has made it clear who is the boss of Delhi - the elected chief minister or the Lieutenant Governor (LG).

In a landmark judgement this week, the Court ruled that the LG has no independent power to take decisions and is bound by the elected government's advice.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, in his separate but concurring judgment, has clearly emphasised that "real power and substantive accountability is vested in the elected representatives of the people".

This should put a lid on the ugly power struggle going on for the past three years in the capital.

Delhi indeed is not like the other Union Territories of India, as in 1991 Article 239AA was added to the Constitution with special rules for administration of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi.

Importantly the judgment has also negated the 2016 Delhi High Court verdict that the LG is not bound by 'the aid and advice' of the Delhi cabinet.

In fact the judgment defines the status of NCT, its powers and jurisdictions.

 

The five-member bench headed by the Chief Justice of India also observed on Tuesday that the Chief Minister and the LG should resolve their differences by way of communication and dialogue.

While Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party claims this as its victory, the Bhartiya Janata Party (which leads the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre) is playing it down.

In real terms the verdict has given some relief to Kejriwal, who had been having a running battle with LG Anil Baijal and his predecessor Najeeb Jung for the past three years.

The NCT of Delhi still does not have the status of a full State as land, police and law and order are vested with the Union government.

Kejriwal and his predecessors like Sheila Dixit have been fighting for full statehood.

But the Centre is not likely to yield arguing that many national capitals such as Washington DC are governed by the federal government.

While the apex court judgment should resolve the power struggle, there are grey areas such as what constitutes 'exceptional situation' in which the LG could refer a matter to the President for a final word and whether the LG has to give written clarifications on these exceptional situations or whether there is a time frame.

As for the powers of postings and transfers the Delhi High Court is looking at it as a separate issue.

Will the chief minister and LG obey the apex court ruling and try to resolve the issues between them amicably?

Will they behave in a mature manner befitting their lofty positions?

Not likely.

Kejrwial had not wasted even a minute to assert himself after the judgment and transferred some officials immediately, only to be defied by Delhi bureaucracy.

The first meeting between the chief minister and the LG ended on Friday with the latter asserting that he still had powers on transfers and postings until the High Court decides on this issue.

So where is the hope?

This kind of ugly spat between the two dignitaries in high places does not auger well for the people of Delhi.

The verdict brings out the need for the two constitutional bodies, the LG and the chief minister, to work in harmony.

AAP should up give up its confrontational politics with the LG and the latter too should not block cabinet decisions.

Secondly, now that the AAP claims that the court has given it full freedom to work, the onus is on the Kejriwal government to deliver on the various promises made to Delhi voters and start concentrating on governance.

No doubt the verdict has restored the primacy of the Legislative Assembly.

The AAP's case has been that the LG was blocking many of their welfare schemes like doorstep delivery of ration, cancelling the appointment of special advisers etc.

The verdict also gives Kejriwal an upper hand in his political fight with the BJP.

The 2019 elections are just one year away and politics overtakes all other things.

Nearer the polls, the chief minister is take up his fight for full statehood for Delhi and take to the streets.

He came to power in 2015 on this promise and has been raising the issue at every forum.

Thirdly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been talking of cooperative federalism and both the Centre and the state should follow this route.

The track record shows that only when the chief minister and the LG are on the same page, even if different parties rule at the Centre and in the state, Delhi's development takes place.

Sheila Dixit's 15-year rule is a proof of that.

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