Lt. Governor cannot be obstructionist: SC sides with Delhi government in AAP-Centre tussle

By Prarthana Mitra

The Supreme Court on Wednesday delivered the long-awaited verdict on who wields the real power over matters of administration in the national capital.

Settling the debate once and for all, the apex court overturned a High Court judgement that held Lieutenant Governor (LG) Anil Baijal as the administrative head of the Capital. Ruling in favour of the Delhi government, the verdict pronounced that the LG was answerable to and bound by the “aid and advice” of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government.


All you need to know about Delhi-Centre tussle

Hearing AAP’s appeal challenging the HC verdict was a five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. Misra maintained that the lieutenant governor must work harmoniously with the elected government, and even if he is the administrative head, an LG “cannot act as an obstructionist.” Justice DY Chandrachud continued in the same tune, saying, “Titular head has to act in accordance to aid and advice.”

In addition, former Union minister P. Chidambaram represented the city government as one of its counsel in the apex court.

“The lieutenant governor can only refer differences of opinion under Article 239AA (4) to the president only in exceptional matters,” The Hindu quoted the chief justice as saying. “This is an exception not the general rule. He has to act in the spirit of constitutional trust and morality.”


Is it a bird, a plane, a state or a UT?

Thanking the judiciary and lashing out at the Modi government, Delhi Chief Minister tweeted,

The tussle began in 2016 and has treaded murky waters, primarily because Delhi is not a state. Declaring that the Centre cannot “usurp powers on areas within the dominion of states,” the bench also noted that Delhi does not have the status of a state. However, it does have the primary power in all areas except land, police and public order, said the top court.

However, the developments in the matter were contrary to Delhi government’s earlier assertion that it wanted administrative autonomy, not statehood. On June 10, the Delhi Assembly adopted a resolution to assume full statehood during a special session on June 10.

Under such circumstances, this verdict comes as a great victory for the AAP government, with Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken commenting, “Now that the Supreme Court has made it all clear, there should be no excuses, just development for Delhi. Kejriwal government and LG had been kicking around Delhiites like a football. They should stop it now and get to work.”

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius