We would lay down principles on status of Delhi: Supreme court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court, hearing pleas on whether the Lieutenant Governor or the Delhi government enjoyed supremacy in administration, today said it would only lay down the principles on the status of the national capital under the Constitution.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said it would not deal with the issues arising out of individual notifications issued by the Delhi government on matters like the ‘mohalla clinics’ and regularisation of guest teachers.

“We must lay down guidelines as to what the Constitution has provided to them (the Lieutenant Governor and the Delhi government),” the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said.

The observation was made when Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, arguing on behalf of the Centre, referred to various notifications of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government to buttress his submission that these were issued in violation of the prescribed norms.

“We are not going to deal with as to whether a particular notification was ultra-vires or illegal. We are not going to decide the individual challenges to those notifications. We will decide as to what is the status of Delhi and what kind of state is this,” the apex court observed.

It said the issues of individual notification may be referred to a bench of two or three judges after the constitution bench lays down the principles or guidelines on the dispute.

At the outset, the ASG referred to several decisions taken by the AAP government on issues like ‘mohalla clinics’, regularisation of guest teachers and posting of Bihar officials in its Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB).

“Even if Delhi government has vertical and exclusive executive powers, it cannot take such decisions,” he said, adding “the ACB is a police station which works under the LG. When it is working under the LG, then under which exclusive executive power you can bring officers from Bihar”.

A bill to regularise guest teachers was brought without it being dealt with by the law department and this was the “constitutional statesmanship” shown by the Delhi government, Singh said in a sarcastic tone.

He then referred to a decision of the Kejriwal government to declare a bungalow allocated to its minister, as the office of the ruling Aam Admi Party.

“Of course, they are entitled to a party office. The land was earmarked for this purpose at Saket. Still they, on their own, decided to give the minister’s residence to the party,” he said.

The ASG, while concluding his submissions, said DANICS (the NCT of Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli Civil Service) is a group civil service of the Centre but still Delhi government took the decisions.

The bench dispelled the apprehensions of the Centre that it would deal with specific notifications of Delhi government.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for a company, dealt with the decision of Delhi government to register an FIR against then Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani and others over alleged irregularities in raising of gas prices.

Can a state government register an FIR against sitting Union Cabinet ministers and private company in matters pertaining to policy decision of fixing the gas price, Singhvi asked and said in a federal set-up, such actions would “lead to chaos”.

Another senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for an official, said the Commission of Enquiry Act and the General Clauses Act provided that the appropriate government for ordering an enquiry would be the Centre.

The court would now resume hearing on December 5 when counsel for the Delhi government would advance rejoinder submissions.

Earlier, the Centre had refuted the AAP government’s charge that the LG sits over its proposals and files and had asserted that 96 per cent of its decisions were approved by the LG within 2-3 days.

The top court is hearing a clutch of appeals filed by the AAP government challenging Delhi High Court’s verdict holding LG as the administrative head of the national capital.

The Centre had also said the Delhi government cannot have “exclusive” executive powers as it would be against national interests. It had referred to the 1989 Balakrishnan committee report that had dealt with reasons for not granting the status of state to Delhi.

It had referred to the Constitution, the 1991 Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act and the Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules to drive home the point that the President, the union government and the LG had supremacy over the city dispensation in administering the national capital.

On the other hand, the Delhi government had accused the LG of making a “mockery of democracy”, saying he was either taking decisions of an elected government or substituting them without having any power.