- Drawing the curtains on an eight-year-long legal battle between the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government and the Centre, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Delhi government has legislative and executive powers over administrative services in the national capital.
- The unanimous ruling by a five-judge Constitution Bench said the decision would further “the basic structure of federalism”.
What was the issue before the Court?
- In 2015, a Union Home Ministry notification said that the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi shall exercise control over “services”. The Delhi government challenged this before the Delhi High Court, which in 2017 upheld the notification. On appeal, a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court referred the issue to a larger constitution Bench.
- In 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench in a unanimous verdict laid down the law that governs the relationship between Delhi and the Centre. The ruling was in favour of the Delhi government.
- While the Constitution bench decided the larger questions, the specific issues were to be decided by a two-judge Bench. In 2019, two judges delivered a split verdict on the specific issue of “services.” The split verdict then went to a three-judge Bench and eventually a five-judge Constitution Bench, which has now delivered its verdict.
What did the court decide?
- First, the court concluded that Delhi under the constitutional scheme is a Sui Generis (or unique) model, and is not similar to any other Union Territory. It said Delhi presents a special constitutional status under article 239AA. Article 239AA specifically excludes land, police and public order from the purview of the legislative powers of the Delhi government.
- The apex court held that the L-G can exercise executive power on behalf of the Centre only in the three areas of public order, police and land in Delhi as mentioned in Article 239AA(3)(a).
- If the L-G differed with the Council of Ministers of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), he should act in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Transaction of Business Rules.
- However, in case the Parliament enacts a law granting executive power on any subject which is within the domain of NCTD, the executive power of the L-G can be modified to the specific extent provided in that law. This means that any change in the L-G’s ambit of power should be supported by a parliamentary legislation which is subject to judicial review by the court.
- In its unanimous verdict, the Court ruled that the Delhi government has legislative and executive powers over services except for public order, police and land.