In a landmark verdict on the power tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously held that Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal does not have independent decision-making powers, and is bound to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
The judgement pronounced in the court by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who was heading the Constitution bench, also held that the LG cannot act as an “obstructionist”.
In three separate but concurring judgements, the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said there is no independent authority vested with the LG to take independent decisions.
It said all decisions of the Council of Ministers, who are elected representatives of the people of Delhi, must be communicated to the LG but that does not mean his concurrence is required.
“There is no room for absolutism and there is no room for anarchism also,” the court ruled.
The decision is a major victory for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP government, which has been in a constant tug of war with the LG over the power wielded by the two branches of the executive.
The Supreme Court said that except for three issues, including land and law and order, Delhi government has the power to legislate and govern on other issues.
It was ruling on a batch of appeals filed by Kejriwal’s government challenging the Delhi High Court’s order holding the LG as the administrative head of the national capital.
Virtually disagreeing with the High Court order, the Supreme Court said the LG should not act in a mechanical manner and stall the decisions of the Council of Ministers.
It said the LG has not been entrusted with independent powers and he can refer issues on difference of opinion to the President only in exceptional matters and not as a general rule.
The LG needs to work harmoniously with the Council of Ministers and an attempt should be made to settle the difference of opinion with discussions, the apex court said.
In his separate verdict, concurring with the rest of the judges, Justice Chandrachud said the real power vests with Council of Ministers and the LG must bear in mind that it is not he but the Council of Ministers that will take the decisions.
The judge also said the LG must realise that the Council of Ministers is answerable to the people.
“There is no independent authority vested with LG to take independent decisions,” he said.
Justice Bhushan, who also penned a separate but concurring verdict, said all routine matters do not require consonance of the LG.