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In Arvind Kejriwal vs Centre, Supreme Court Says Lieutenant Governor Has Primacy In Delhi

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In Arvind Kejriwal vs Centre, Supreme Court Says Lieutenant Governor Has Primacy In Delhi

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The AAP government in Delhi has moved Supreme Court over differences with the Lieutenant Governor.

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court today observed that “prima facie” Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor or LG has primacy in the national capital under the Constitution, but also said that the top official cannot “sit over files” beyond a reasonable period and must refer to the President matters over which he has a difference of opinion with the Delhi government. 

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra is hearing petitions by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s government against last year’s High Court verdict that the LG is the administrative head of the national capital.

“Article 239AA (of the Constitution) is unique to Delhi. Prima facie it appears that it gives more power to Lieutenant Governor unlike other Union Territories. LG in Delhi has the primacy under the Constitution,” the bench observed today. The court will resume hearing the case on Tuesday.

Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, who led arguments for the Delhi government, has told the court that an “an elected government cannot be without any power”. He argued today that the LG, who reports to the Central government, cannot use his power under the Constitution to “stultify daily governance by sitting over files.” 

“More than 1.14 lakh vacancies are there, but I cannot fill it up and have to seek LG’s permission. I can’t take steps to stop deaths in sewers. This is hampering governance,” the senior lawyer said. 

Mr Subramanium said the LG has been taking several executive decisions and that “a harmonious interpretation of Article 239AA is required to fulfil the constitutional mandate for a democratically elected government in Delhi.” The Aam Aadmi Party government has also told the top court that its ministers have to “bow down before bureaucrats” and that the officials do not acknowledge them as the heads of departments. 

Justice DY Chandrachud, one of the judges on the bench, observed that the LG cannot sit over the files and under the provisions of the Constitution, must refer the matter to the President in case of a difference of opinion. The Lieutenant Governor should have to record his reasons for decisions on files, he said. 

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been locked in a power tussle with the Centre ever since his AAP swept to power in the national capital in 2015, repeatedly accusing the Lieutenant Governor of encroaching on the state government’s powers and blocking its decisions. 

The AAP government moved the Supreme Court last year after the Delhi High Court ruled that the Lieutenant Governor is the administrative boss in the national capital. 

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