New Delhi: In a major setback to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi High Court on Thursday ruled that the Lt. Governor (LG) had primacy over the Delhi administration.
LG Najeeb Jung termed the verdict as validation of the Constitution, while the Aam Aadmi Party government said it will move the Supreme Court against the decision.
The BJP and the Congress hit out at AAP government following the court ruling.
The high court verdict came as Kejriwal is away in Dharamsala attending a ten-day Vipasaana course.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia held a press conference and said the government disagrees with the court order and will move the Supreme Court.
Jung also held a presser and said the order was not anyone’s victory. “It’s just about the validation of the Constitution by the court, and not about anyone’s victory.”
Jung said his office would review all decisions and orders taken by the Delhi government in the last one-and-half years.
“We want to help the elected government without interfering in its functioning. We will continue to extend constitutional support to the government” Jung said.
The High Court ruled that decisions taken by Delhi’s council of ministers had to be communicated to the LG and if the LG took a different view on the issue, a reference to the central government was required.
A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath said that policy direction can’t be issued without communicating to Lt. Governor, giving primacy to the Lt Governor over Delhi’s administration of Delhi.
“On a reading of Article 239 and Article 239A of the Constitution together with the provisions of the Government of NCT of Delhi Act 1991… it becomes manifest that Delhi continues to be a Union Territory,” the bench said.
Article 239A gives special provisions with respect to Delhi as a union territory.
In a series of setbacks for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, the court said matters connected with ‘services’ fall outside the purview of the Delhi assembly, and ruled that the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) cannot initiate any action against central government employees, and termed “illegal” several commissions of inquiry set up by the Delhi government.
The HC upheld the Union Home Ministry notification declaring that the ACB could probe only Delhi government officials.
Terming “illegal”, the court also quashed the commission of inquiry set up by the Delhi government to look into the alleged irregularities in the functioning of Delhi and District Cricket Association and the commission of inquiry to look into awarding CNG Fitness Certificates in the transport department, as these were set up “without seeking the views/concurrence of the LG”.
It also set aside the appointment of nominee directors of Delhi government on Board of BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd, BSES Yamuna Power Ltd and Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd as it was made without communicating to the LG.
On the issue of appointment of Special Public Prosecutor (SPP), the bench said though the LG was competent to appoint them, such power had to be exercised on the aid and advice of the council of ministers.
The court also said that the Delhi government’s direction to the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission to compensate consumers in case of unscheduled power cuts is “illegal” as such policy directions cannot be issued without communicating to the LG.
The court’s judgement came on nine different petitions arising out of the spat between the LG and Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party government over the power to appoint bureaucrats in the national capital and other issues.
The judgement came after about a year-long hearing over the Centre’s two notifications which is behind the bitter turf war between LG Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over the Delhi administration.
Delhi BJP unit chief Satish Upadhyay told IANS that the AAP government was not following the constitutional provisions in Delhi and the court has made it clear to them that they have to govern under these provisions.
Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee said: “Kejriwal has wasted 18 months of his governance in a standstill mode and has only manufactured conflict with the LG.”
“It is Kejriwal’s desire to have more power than what has been given to him by the Constitution,” she said.