Constitution Bench of SC commences hearing on Delhi-Centre governance row

The Delhi government said in court the L-G had created a situation where no bureaucrat was obeying directions of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his ministers

He sought a balance between the powers of the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) and the state government, arguing that even if the L-G had greater powers under the Constitution, they should be exercised only in exceptional circumstances. The SC said that the supremacy in the administration of the Union Territory of Delhi was prima facie tilted in favour of the LG. "Article 239AA is unique to Delhi".

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered the submission of the Centre that there was a need to revisit the issue in the wake of the Delhi High Court verdict.

During the hearing, Mr Subramaniam told the bench that "an elected government can not be without any power".

While hearing the case, the SC indicated that it may fix a time frame within which the Delhi Lt Governor should dispose of the files sent to him by the state government and in case of delay in clearing files, he will have to assign reasons.

If a dispute were to arise between the Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Minister, the former would be the final authority until the President makes a decision, the apex court added. However, the court observed that under the provisions of the constitution, the Lieutenant Governor has the last word and the elected government would have to operate within this framework. In other areas he would act on the aid and advise of the Council of Minister but in the event of difference he would refer the matter to President.

To this, the bench said there are three things - executive action, difference of opinion and validity of such opinion, which needs to be deliberated.

The appeals were referred to the Constitution Bench in February by a Division Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and R. K. Agrawal.

Besides the Centre, Indian Radiological and Imaging Association, the association of radiologists in the country, had moved the apex court challenging the High Court's decision on the issue. "In the absence of a law, who has the power - you or the L-G?" asked the CJI, adding "the language of the Constitution says L-G's decision is final".

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