The Supreme Court ruling means that neither can the L-G disregard the elected government, nor can the AAP government and must be devoid of conflict of power should augur well for the development of Delhi as a whole.
In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court said that the Delhi Lieutenant Governor has no independent decision making power and cannot behave as an obstructionist when the constitution gives primacy to representative for of government. The five-judge bench observed that Delhi the national capital enjoys special status and is not a full state. Hence, the role of the L-G is different than that of a Governor. The apex court also observed that neither LG nor the Chief Minister heading the council of ministers should not consider them bigger than the other and must work in a harmonious manner.
The unanimous judgment by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, emphasised elected government has to be given authority to function because the democracy, by design, guaranteed an elected government to represent will of the people - who are sovereign.
The majority verdict also made it clear that except for three issues, including law and order, Delhi government has the power to legislate and govern on other subjects. “Only in exceptional situations, the LG can refer the issue to President when he had legitimate and serious difference of opinion with the decision taken by council of ministers headed by Delhi Chief Minister,” the bench ruled adding that LG should not act in a mechanical manner to refer all decisions of the council of ministers to the President citing difference of opinion.
The verdict assumes lot of significance as it clearly outlays the division of powers between the Lieutenant Governor and an elected government in Delhi, as per the Constitutional provision that lies at the core of governance of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. In what is seen as a direct message to both L-G Anil Baijal and Arvind Kejriwal, the Supreme Court ruled, “there is a requirement of discussion and deliberation. The fine nuances are to be dwelled upon with mutual respect. Neither of the authorities should feel that they have been lionized. They should feel that they are serving the constitutional norms, values and concepts.”
The verdict also laid down authoritatively a clear guidelines for the LG’s conduct and delineates the powers of the two branches of the executive in Delhi, The bench emphasised that the L-G is bound by aid and advise of the council of ministers and that he cannot act as an independent authority when there exists a legislature by virtue of a special constitutional provision.
Ever since, the Kejriwal led AAP government came to power, it has been on logger-heads with the L-G on many issues and there have been several instances of the governance coming to a standstill. In his three year rule, Kejriwal has created indelible mark through his theatrics and dharna politics. His constant confrontations with the centre and instant dramatics have indeed dented his credibility and so does the image of AAP in the minds of general public.
As he loves to choose conflict over conciliation and jumps in to take on the mighty, he has once again failed to discern fine print of SC verdict. Soon after the SC verdict, in their over-enthusiasm to claim victory, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and rest of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leadership retorted by firing Tweets Kejriwal tweeted: "A big victory for the people of Delhi. A big victory for democracy". While Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia stressed that “elected government would now be free to do transfer and postings of officials” and files need not be sent to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal. Bharadwaj, the party spokesman, eagerly expressed the party and government's wish for the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) to be brought under control of Kejriwal government.
But, in reality the verdict questioned the power struggle between the lieutenant governor and the chief minister. The SC verdict is not just a balanced one, it also drew lines and clearly defined the roles of the two constitutional authorities. Moreover, the SC has clearly pulled up both by stating that "there is no room for absolutism or anarchy under the Constitution". The SC simply put the people above all and emphasised on maintaining a "harmonious relationship".
On the whole, while the AAP claims that the SC has virtually restricted LG’s power and has given CM Arvind Kejriwal a free hand to operate in issues other than in the arena of police, land and public order, in the remaining 19 months of his tenure, SC also denied the long-standing demand of the AAAP – Statehood for Delhi.
In the last over 3 years of AAP rule, Kejriwal has often blamed the LG for stalling many of his dream projects citing "unwarranted interference" . It is time for Kejriwal to move forward and deliver rather than hide behind the premise that the Centre is backstabbing its various initiatives. It will be crucial for Kejriwal as he has to perform and not simply blame the centre and the LG.
The Delhi government does not have control over land, bureaucracy and police. But AAP claims that the BJP-led central government is trying to rule the city by proxy using the L-G to block its plans on other subjects such as health and education as well. Indeed, the long-drawn turf war between the L-G and the AAP has applied brakes on various development projects. "The right to vote lies at the heart of democracy as it inculcates a sense of belonging among the people and it is absolutely necessary that the people's will is implemented," the supreme court said, Now, after the landmark verdict it is clear that neither can the L-G disregard the elected government, nor can the elected government continue to point their finger on L-G. The ruling must augur well for the people of Delhi and the National Capital region as a whole. For the fact remains that the citizens of Delhi have suffered long enough from mis-governance arising from dual power centres and the multiplicity of agencies exercising control over it.
AAP claims victory but BJP says Supreme Court verdict a blow to ‘Anarchist’ Arvind Kejriwal. The Bharatiya Janata Party said “We have seen Kejriwal raising politics of dharna and anarchy. He has never tried to work harmoniously. The Supreme Court has dealt a severe blow to Kejriwal. He should now leave the politics of anarchy and move towards governance,” the BJP’s spokesperson Sambit Patra said.
Union minister Vijay Goel pointed out that Delhi has been facing major problems like water scarcity and pollution and L-G Anil Baijal did not stop Kejriwal’s government from supplying water and working on measures to check pollution. He added, “You were not working on the problems of Delhi and were busy playing the blame game. Now, you have lost that. I believe now the AAP government should work and show results as Delhi has suffered much in courts, in dharna, in protests and blame game,” said.
“BJP is very happy with the Supreme Court judgement. Kejriwal is anti-Constitution and does not want to follow the rules of Constitution. So, this is a slap on Kejriwal. The Supreme Court has clearly said anarchy will not continue in Delhi,” president of the BJP’s Delhi unit Manoj Tiwari said.
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) controls land use in the capital and answers to the Ministry of Urban Development. The Delhi police is responsible only to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The control over ACB has been one of the prime issues for the AAP government. The ACB is staffed by Delhi Police personnel and headed any an Additional Commissioner of Police-rank officer. It has the power to register FIRs, investigate, arrest and prosecutes. It should be noted that in the national capital, police, public order and land is under the ambit of the Centre and the same has been reiterated by Supreme Court verdict.
Besides, AAP wants to have absolute discretion on transfer-posting of officials and employees of all grades — Indian Administrative Service (IAS) to peons. Let’s not forget the unfortunate incident of manhandling of Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash in the presence of Kejriwal and Sisodia and subsequently at “sofa dharna” which Kejriwal staged with three of his ministerial colleagues at Raj Niwas. Perhaps, AAP is clearly looking for opportunities to tame permanent bureaucracy and subordinate staff. It is quite obvious that political leadership enjoys the power to transfer and post bureaucrats and consider it as the most powerful tool to tame individual bureaucrats and bureaucracy at large toe their line.
The AAP government is of the view that that beyond police, public order and law, all other powers rest with elected government but the court ruling clearly said, “The status of NCT of Delhi is sui generis, a class apart”… and other parts reaffirming it is not a full State and can’t be a full State under present constitutional scheme and is a Union Territory (UT). “Services” is listed in state list but as per the interpretations of Union home ministry since Delhi is not a state but a UT, power to command services is not vested with city government.
The constitution makes it very clear that it is beyond purview of Delhi government to transfer and post the bureaucrats as per its likes or dislikes. Moreover, for 15 years, Congress ruled under Sheila Diskhit did not have much of a problem with the system worked in full coordination with the LGs. “For 15 years, no conflict took place then,” former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit Dikshit pointed out.
After the Supreme Court verdict on the powers of the Delhi L-G, the relationship between the AAP dispensation and bureaucrats further strained with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal warning officers of "serious consequences" if they did not obey the apex court's order. Hours after the Supreme Court's landmark judgement, the government introduced a new system for transfer and postings of bureaucrats, making the chief minister the approving authority. The Delhi government also explored legal options, including filing contempt petition, against those who refused to comply with the city government's directive on transfers and postings, an official said.
Kejriwal wrote a letter to Baijal, saying 'services' matter lies with the Council of Ministers, after bureaucrats refused to follow the AAP government's order withdrawing powers of transfer and postings from the L-G. However the services department refused to comply, saying the apex court did not abolish the May 21, 2015, notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs, according to which services matter lies with the lieutenant governor.
Meanwhile, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari said there has been an "unprecedented political logjam" in the three years of the AAP government and urged Kejriwal to "give up" his full statehood demand and work for the people. In a letter to the chief minister, Tiwari alleged that in the "politically motivated logjam", the development of the city has been the biggest casualty in the last three years.
Having played the victim card for the past three years and with less than a year to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Kejriwal has to finally deliver on his poll promises such as door-to-door delivery of services and installation of CCTV cameras, targeted at its vote bank. The AAP government is not left with any excuses for non-delivery. Realising the hard facts, AAP has pulled up its socks and implemented the doorstep delivery of rations. For, AAP and Kejriwal fortunately it still has enough time to set things in order. With elections less than a year away, It is time for Kejriwal to focus more on governance than on bashing BJP and Narendra Modi-led Centre. Surely, Delhi deserves a better administration that is devoid of conflict of power.