New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday (May 11) held that the elected Delhi government has power over all administrative services except those pertaining to police, public order and land. Other than in these three areas, the bench said, the Lieutenant Governor is bound by decisions taken by the Delhi assembly.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud came to the unanimous decision that “The legislative power of NCT Delhi under Entry 41 would extend to IAS and it shall control them even if they are not recruited by the NCT Delhi. However, it would not extend to the services which comes under land, law and order and police. Lieutenant Governor (LG) shall be bound by the decision of NCT Delhi over services apart from land, police and law and order.”
Bar and Bench quoted the court as saying, “LG shall exercise powers under the administrative role as entrusted by the President. Executive administration can only extend to matters which fall outside the scope of the legislative assembly…and it cannot mean administration over entire NCT Delhi. Otherwise, the purpose of having a separate elected body in Delhi will be rendered futile. Democratically elected government shall have control over its officers. If a democratically elected government is not allowed to control its officers and hold them to account, then its responsibility towards the legislature and public is diluted. If officers are not responding to the government, the collective responsibility is diluted. If officers feel they are insulated from the elected government, they feel they are not accountable.”
The bench also comprised Justices M.R. Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and P.S. Narasimha.
The Constitution bench thus disagreed with Justice Ashok Bhushan’s views in the 2019 split verdict, according to LiveLaw, which had held that all services were outside of the Delhi government’s purview.
Speaking on the exclusions, the bench said that Article 239AA excludes specified entries from the power of the legislative assembly of GNCTD, i.e. Entries 1, 2 and 18 of List II to Schedule VII (public order, police and land). According to the judges, this Article was meant to ensure a balance of power between the Delhi and Union governments.
“The executive power of Union in a state over matters on which both union and states can legislate is limited to ensure that governance of state is not taken over by the union. This would completely abrogate the federal system of governance and the principle of representative democracy,” LiveLaw quoted the bench as saying.
This verdict will have significant impact, given the ongoing and now longstanding tussle between the Delhi government and the LG on the separation powers and alleged “overreach” by the Union government in the capital.