New Delhi: The Delhi government should have some powers otherwise it cannot function, the Supreme Court today observed while listing for final disposal the appeal of the AAP government against the high court verdict which had held that the LG was the administrative head of national capital.
The “elected government in Delhi should have some powers otherwise it cannot function. The matter needs to be decided fast”, a bench of Justices A K Sikri and A M Sapre said.
The bench listed the matter for final disposal on January 18 and said since it will hear the matter in detail, no interim orders will be passed on various interim applications as of now.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, said that they are challenging the order of the high court which has ruled that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) was the administrative head and whose prior consent is needed in all administrative decisions.
He said that the high court has held that the aid and advice of council of ministers are not binding upon the LG.
“The elected government in Delhi cannot appoint the chief secretary or cannot even appoint a class IV officer by itself,” Subramaniam said, noting that under the constitutional scheme of things the council of ministers is required to give aid and advice to the LG.
He said that the Constitution mandates that when there is difference of opinion on any issue, then the matter could be referred to the President.
As an interim relief, the senior lawyer sought stay order from the court on the decision of the LG to appoint the three- member Shunglu committee to inspect 400 files of the AAP government after the Delhi High Court verdict came.
The Shunglu committee, which has submitted its report last month, was formed by LG Najeeb Jung on August 30 to examine over 400 files on decisions taken by the AAP dispensation.
The committee was chaired by former CAG V K Shunglu with ex-chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami and ex-chief vigilance commissioner Pradeep Kumar as its members.
“Stay should also be granted on compulsary referrence to the LG on every decision taken by the government and the LG should be directed to strictly comply with the provisions of the NCT Act,” he said.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said that no notice has been issued and therefore no reply has been filed on the appeals of the Delhi government.
The bench said that since the matters are being listed for final disposal, there was no need of reply as of now as everything could be raised during arguments.
Subramaniam then said that as an interim measure lawyers appointed by the Delhi government to represent it in the apex court should be allowed to function by the bench.
This submission was opposed by Kumar who said that since 1950 as per the convention the lawyers from central agency of the Ministry of Law and Justice has been looking after the affairs of all Union territories in the country.
“Now since Delhi has been declared as a Union Territory by the high court, the lawyers who were appointed by the AAP government have not allowed to function,” Kumar said.
Subramaniam said that it is open to the elected government to appoint any lawyer to represent itself in various courts.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan also concurred with the view of Subramanian and said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has written to the registry of the Supreme Court that ‘vakalatnama’ (power of attroney) of the Delhi government lawyers should not be accepted.
To this, the bench said that there has been occassions when two lawyers – one from the Delhi government and one from the Centre — have before it in a single matter representing the same party.
It told the SG that lawyers representing the Delhi goverment in this matter should be allowed to represent it and posted the matter for final hearing to Janurary 18.
Earlier, the AAP government had told the apex court that no “precipitative action” should be taken on the Shunglu committee report till the apex court adjudicates the Delhi- Centre row.
On September 9, the apex court had refused to grant an interim stay on the Delhi High Court’s August 4 verdict and sought response within six weeks from the Centre on seven appeals of the AAP dispensation.
It had also declined to stay the decision of LG Jung to set up a three-member committee to scrutinise over 400 files and past orders of the elected city government.
In its verdict, the high court had rejected several pleas challenging the LG’s authority after which he had ordered examination of the files.