State vs LG: SC reminds Delhi of its power limitations

Posted November 04, 2017

The batch of seven special leave petitions filed by the Delhi government has challenged the Delhi High Court's August 4 judgment which upheld the L-G's power not only over the police, land and public order but also in "services".

Justice Chandrachud said that the President exercises his administrative control over Union Territory through Lt Governor, and if there are specific instances of excesses, then the court can address them.

Subramanium said that LG was taking several executive decisions and a harmonious interpretation of Article 239AA is required to fulfil the constitutional mandate for a democratically elected government in Delhi.

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Senior lawyer Gopal Subramanium led the arguments for the Delhi Government and said that the governor has been deemed with limited power and that it should be given more power. As politics has played out over the past couple of years in Delhi, where the Supreme Court held the L-G has clearly been given primacy under Article 239AA of the Constitution, forget collegiality even civility has sometimes been absent in the interactions between the duly elected State government led by Arvind Kejriwal and the Delhi L-G appointed by the President of India.

He also said that there are areas where Lt. Governor enjoys delegated powers and he alone is administrator in respect of them. Prima facie it appears that it gives more power to Lieutenant Governor, unlike other Union Territories. "It was not a structural addition to the Constitution and has been founded on constitutional values of accountability, transparency and amenity to the rule of law, which need to be considered in this case", he said.

The matter was referred to the constitution bench by the bench of Justice Sikri and Justice R.K.Agrawal on February 15.

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Delhi was given an assembly and an elected government through Article 239 (AA) incorporated in the Constitution by the 69th amendment in 1991. The higher the degree of power, the higher the degree of trust, he argued before the Constitution bench. The existence of the LG in administrative issues was "mandatory" mentioned the apex court and the AAP government will have to adopt in the framework.

Hearing will continue on November 7.

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