- A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously held that Lieutenant-Governor (LG) of Delhi is bound by the “aid and advice” of the elected government.
Background of case:
Verdict of the Delhi High Court
- On a reading of Article 239 and Article 239AA of the Constitution together with the provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 and the Transaction of Business of the Government of NCT of Delhi Rules, 1993, it becomes manifest that Delhi continues to be a Union Territory even after the Constitution (69th Amendment) Act, 1991 inserting Article 239AA making special provisions with respect to Delhi.
- The High Court declared that the L-G has complete control of all matters regarding the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and nothing will happen without the concurrence of the L-G.
- It also upheld the Union ministry of home’s notifications giving the L-G the power to transfer Delhi government bureaucrats.
- The HC had also quashed certain decisions taken by the Delhi government without the L-G’s concurrence.
Appeal to Supreme Court by Delhi government
- An appeals was filed by the NCT government against the verdict of the Delhi High Court.
- Accepting the appeal of Delhi government, a two-judge bench of Supreme Court requested the CJI to set up a larger bench.
- SC setup five judges constitutional bench to hear the appeal and gave its judgment.
Highlights of SC order:
On Delhi High Court order:
- The SC reversed the decision of the Delhi High Court which had held that LG was the “administrative head” of Delhi NCT, who was not bound by the aid and advice of the Delhi Council of Ministers.
- It concluded that the governance of Delhi cannot rest upon the whims of one functionary — the Lieutenant-Governor.
o The Lieutenant-Governor has not been entrusted with any independent decision-making power.
o He has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers or he is bound to implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him.
LG is bound by the aid and advice of the CoM:
- The Supreme Court delineated the boundaries of power between the Lieutenant-Governor and Delhi Government by stating that the LG cannot interfere in each and every decision of the Delhi Government.
- Although decisions of the Government have to be communicated to the LG, there is no need to obtain the concurrence of LG in all matters.
- The LG is bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers (CoM) of Delhi Government, except in matters of land, police and public order.
Difference of power:
- The power of LG to differ from the Delhi Government and make reference to President was only with respect to exceptional matters under Article 239AA (4) of the Constitution of India.
- The exceptional matters pertain to land, police and public order.
In case of difference of opinion:
- In case of difference of opinion, the L-G should straightaway refer the dispute to the President for a final decision without sitting over it or stultifying the governance in the National Capital.
- Bench also cautioned the L-G against sending every “trivial” dispute with the government to the President.
On Statehood of Delhi:
- SC also added that Delhi cannot be accorded complete statehood under the current Constitutional scheme.
Issues yet to be decided:
- The specific disputes between the two will now be decided by a two-judge bench of the apex court, and the home ministry could consider seeking a review of the ruling.