Not seeking statehood but more administrative powers, Delhi government tells Supreme Court
New Delhi, Jan 31: The Delhi government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it was not seeking full statehood for Delhi but more administrative powers, contending that a “democratically elected government can’t be subservient to the Lt. Governor”.
Making a case for more administrative powers without the shadow of the Lt. Governor hanging over it, the Arvind Kejriwal government told a bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice R.K. Agrawal that “it is inconceivable that in a Cabinet form of government, you have a titular head who is not accountable but interposes himself on every decision”.
The observations were made by the Delhi government’s counsel during the hearing of its pleas that challenged the Delhi High Court verdict that upheld the primacy of the Lt. Governor in Delhi’s governance.
Telling the court that the Lt. Governor can always remand back a decision by Delhi’s Council of Ministers for reconsideration, senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam told the court that the question is “whether in the exercise of his discretion, can he nullify a decision of the Council of Ministers”.
Referring to the constitutional provisions and that of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, Subramaniam asked if the Lt. Governor could interpose himself on every decision and if a Council of Ministers of a democratically elected government can only aid and advise him and that too was not binding.
Pointing to the dichotomy of the situation, the counsel said that there was a legislature under the Representation of People Act that came into being through direct elections and has a Chief Minister appointed by the President, but the decisions by this government can be eclipsed by the Lt. Governor “who is not answerable to anyone”.
“Would there be a situation where the Chief Minister will tell the legislature that his government did take decisions but same were vetoed by the Lt. Governor?”
Referring to the constitutional provisions that the President or the Governors in the states were bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, Subramaniam wondered aloud: “Can the Lt. Governor have powers higher than those exercised by the Governors in the states?”
Assailing the High Court verdict that said that no decision of the Council of Ministers was valid unless certified by the Lt. Governor, Subramaniam said: “You can have special provisions for Delhi. You can’t have a special form of a cabinet government where one Council of Ministers sits over the decisions of another Council of Ministers.”
The senior counsel told the bench that the High Court judgment was a backward step from the top court’s position that the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers is binding on the President or the Governor, as the case may be.