The Supreme Court’s ruling today that the Lieutenant Governor does not have independent decision-making powers in Delhi and the real power must lie with the elected government is being interpreted in different ways by different political parties.
The top court emphasised that except for anything related to land, police and public order, the Lt Governor has no independent decision-making powers under the constitution.
The Lt Governor is an administrator in a limited sense and is not the Governor, said the court and added that “there is no room for absolutism and there is no room for anarchism also”.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called it a “big victory for the people of Delhi… a big victory for democracy”. His deputy Manish Sisodia termed the judgment as “historic” and said, “We have not yet read the judgement in full, but what the court has said that people are supreme, elected government will be supreme, and LG ke paas manmani karne ki power nahin hai (LG has no power to act arbitrarily).”
However, the BJP was quick to highlight that the verdict has “decided” that Delhi is a Union Territory (UT), something which was already known.
The use of the word “anarchy” by the top court is a lesson for the Delhi chief minister, said Manoj Tiwari, Delhi BJP chief.
Sambit Patra, BJP national spokesperson, said that Mr Kejriwal’s dharna politics has been called out by the court today. His colleague Nalin Kohli, too, wondered why is the AAP claiming this as a victory?
“Their main plank was that Delhi is a state. The court said it is not. They wanted exclusive executive control, that has been rejected too. Delhi is a union territory and the centre has a role to play. It is an arrangement in constitutional spirit. Various governments have functioned here and there has never been a situation like this,” Mr Kohli said.
The Congress party claimed the verdict had done away with all possibilities of a “blame game” between the BJP and the AAP.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said, “Since the top court has clarified about the powers in Delhi, we hope that the development, which has been stalled ever since the Congress was voted out of power over four years ago, will start again.”
Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said the ruling that the Lt Governor is bound by the government’s advice was “not a vindication” for the party as “it has always been so”.
“I don’t see why it (the matter) should go to the court. There is a constitutional provision, Article 239 (AA) which says Delhi is a Union territory. It is all clearly laid down then what is the conflict about,” she said.
Ms Dikshit, who thrice ruled Delhi between 1998 and 2013, said her government may have had differences with the LG, but there was never any “tussle”.
“We had four or five different LGs. We have had differences, but we talked to each other to sort them out because our first job was to govern,” Ms Dikshit said.
Referring to the administrative structure and Mr Kejriwal’s demand for full statehood for Delhi, Sheila Dikshit said he has to accept the fact that Delhi is a union territory and there are going to be limitations for any chief minister.
She added when the Congress was in power in Delhi, they, too, had made the full statehood demand, but they also realised that it wasn’t possible.
“Delhi is the national capital. The centre wasn’t ready to give charge of land and police to the Delhi government, because for that the constitution had to be changed,” she said.
Since coming to power following a sensational victory in 2015 winning 67 out of 70 assembly seats, Mr Kejriwal has been at loggerheads with the centre over a host of issues. He often targets Prime Minister Narendra Modi of trying to stall governance in Delhi.