The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to a Constitution Bench a batch of pleas filed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government against the Delhi High Court verdict which had held that Delhi is not a state and the Lieutenant Governor (LG) is its administrative head.
An apex court bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and RK Agrawal 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 JS Khehar, in the matter and asked the Centre and the Delhi government to argue their case before the larger bench.
The AAP government told the court that it will mention the matter before the Chief Justice for early hearing before the larger bench as governance in Delhi is hampered due to the dispute.
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 Arvind Kejriwal-led government had submitted before the court that the LG’s power is finite and that consultation with the elected government and legislature is a must and argued that the HC's decision giving the LG solitary administrative powers over the Capital was “deeply flawed.”
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's 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.
"In Delhi's case, Article 239AA (3) preserves Parliament's legislative powers over all subjects in state and concurrent lists. However, no such power is reserved for the Centre/ President," he had said.
"The GNCTD Act explicitly limits the discretion of the LG, and any delegation in that behalf to him by the President only to matters falling outside the purview of Delhi's legislature. Also, the Act says these are matters on which the the LG is 'required to act' on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. These features are absent in the earlier laws of 1951 and 1963," he said.
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.
(With PTI inputs)