Friday, February 23, 2024

Delhi govt vs L-G: Supreme Court adjourns hearing to April 6

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The Supreme Court‘s three-judge bench hearing the question of powers of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) and the Union Government via the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) over administrative services in Delhi, categorically said the present matter will be heard by it and not by a five-judge bench.

The bench of Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, and Justices A.S. Bopanna & Hima Kohli was hearing the dispute between the GNCTD and the Centre.

Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the Delhi Government, submitted that even if the GNCTD wanted to appoint a health secretary, the approval of the L-G is required under Entry 41.

The Court was seized of two separate matters one is with relation to separation of powers over administrative services in Delhi. The other is a writ petition filed by the Delhi Government challenging the provisions of the GNCTD Amendment Act which gives more power to the L-G. 

Appearing for the Centre, ASG Sanjay Jain said he would need more time to present his submissions before the Court. He said writ petition challenging the GNCTD Amendment Act would be heard separately. 

Following which, the Court adjourned hearing till April 6, 2022. The Court has issued notice in the writ petition and directed the Centre to file its reply within four weeks. The matter would be heard separately. 

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On February 14, 2019, a Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan delivered a split verdict on the powers of the GNCTD vis-a-vis the Centre, through the L-G.

The controversy was, however, on the issue as to whether the executive power of GNCTD is to the exclusion of the power of the Centre.

The legislative power of the GNCTD extends to all subject matters contained in various entries of List II (State List) with the specific exclusion of entries 1, 2 and 18 (dealing with public order, police and land respectively). Likewise, it extends to all the entries in the concurrent list.

In October last year, the Supreme Court  said it would set up a three-judge bench to hear after the Diwali vacation on the Delhi government’s plea seeking the quashing of the four amended sections of the GNCTD Act and 13 Rules of the Transaction of Business of the GNCTD Rules, 1993 as they violated the doctrine of basic structure of the constitution. The Centre, through its amendments, has given more power to the Lieutenant Governor than the elected government of the people of Delhi, alleged the Delhi Govt in its plea.

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On July 4, 2018, a five-judge bench had laid down broad parameters for governance of the national capital, which has witnessed a power struggle between the Centre and the Delhi government.

On 13/09/2021, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi had mentioned before CJI, for early listing of a matter filed by Delhi Govt challenging the GNCTD Amendment Act, 2021, which has restricted power of Delhi Government and empowers the LG to take decisions. The matter was listed along with the another plea filed by the Delhi Govt today before the bench led by the CJI. 

As stated in petition, the Delhi Government has challenged the constitutionality of Sections 21, 24, 33, 44 of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 and Rules 3, 6A, 10, 14, 15, 19, 22, 23, 25, 47A, 49, 52 and 57 of Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules, 1993.

It is noteworthy that in 2016, disputes and differences arose between the L-G and the Delhi Government in respect of powers, duties and governance. Post which the matter was taken to court. The Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had in that matter held that the Council of Ministers shall inform all its decisions to the Lt Governor but that does not mean that the concurrence of the Lt Governor is required. 

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Yet on March 15, 2021, the Central Government introduced the GNCTD Act Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha; this bill received the assent of the President and became the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act 2021, on March 28, 2021.

Later, in July, the Transaction of Business of GNCTD (Amendment) Act came into force.

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