Arguments Summary Day 11: November 28, 2017

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Union of India, resumed his arguments before the Constitutional Bench hearing the case pertaining to the special status of Delhi.

In the last hearing on 23.11.2017, Mr. Maninder Singh argued that the text of Article 239AA and the provisions of GNCT Act, 1991 made the President the primary authority in the administration of NCT of Delhi. Today the crux of his submission was that the NCT of Delhi enjoyed the same powers as other Union Territories and was not be treated differently just because it had an elected legislative assembly. He also referred to case laws and parliamentary debates to bolster his case.

Mr. Singh opened his arguments by stating that the NCT of Delhi would be governed by Art 239 like the other Union Territories. Consequently, the President acting through the LG had supremacy over the NCT of Delhi in legislative and executive matters. He cited a number of cases to emphasize the interdependence of Art 239 and Art 239AA i.e. Satya Dev Bushahri v Padam DevTandel v Administrator of GoaSushil Flour Dal & Oil Mills v Chief Commissioner. He argued that a literal interpretation of Art 239, Art 239A, Art 239AA clearly showed that the LG was the administrative head of NCT. He submitted that one could depart from literal interpretation only when it was repugnant on the basis of the context. Since it was easy to reconcile all these aforementioned provisions to form a complete code, the plain interpretation should be the accepted interpretation.

Mr. Singh forcefully argued that since Art 239AA had been added via a constitutional amendment, under article Art 239 which deals with Union Territories, it settled the debate about Delhi’s status as a Union Territory.  He also alluded to the Parliamentary debates to argue that NCT was envisaged as a local government body under the direct control of the President.  He reiterated that the “Appropriate Government” in this matter would be the Central Government and not the Delhi Government. At this point, Justice Ashok Bhushan enquired whether the Delhi Government had any exclusive executive powers? Mr. Singh replied that it had no exclusive executive powers and the actions of the Delhi Government had to align with that of the Union Government.

He further argued that the LG had the same powers in Delhi as in other Union Territories and the power of the LG was not diluted by the presence of a State Assembly (similar to Puducherry). He drew a scheme by comparing 1963 Act and GNCT Act 1991 to argue that the provisions of the two were the same, so Puducherry and GNCT were on the same footing. He concluded by submitting that in the instances of both NCT and Puducherry, the administration was controlled by the President. The hearings will resume on 29.11.2017.

(This report relies on contributions from Mr. Ayush Puri)