On 23.11.2017, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh appearing on behalf of the Union of India commenced his arguments before the Constitutional Bench hearing the case pertaining to Special Status of Delhi, which had been granted to the National Capital Territory under Article 239AA.
Mr Singh contended that Article 239AA is a complete code in itself and the Scheme of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 gave the Central government an overarching authority over the State. He referred to several provisions of the 1991 Act, laying emphasis on the sections where the Lieutenant Governor had been given control over the financial administration of Delhi (Sections 22, 27 & 30), to further substantiate his argument that while the State Government was responsible for the day-to-day governance of Delhi, the broad powers of administration lay with the Central Government.
He further relied on Sections 33 & 34 of the Act relating to the Rules of Procedure and the official language(s) to be adopted by the Legislative Assembly, to argue that both provisions placed control in the hands of the President of India and the 1991 Act had been drafted in such a manner as to grant predominant powers to the Union Government with the State having secondary authority. Delhi, although accorded a special status as a State continued to be a Union Territory and therefore under the control of the Central Government.
It was his submission that the Lieutenant Governor is not bound by the advice of the Council of Ministers. However, this argument was not well received by CJI Dipak Misra who was of the opinion that the Lieutenant Governor could not assume all powers and issue any orders on his own. Justice Chandrachud further noted that the power of governance lay with the Council of Ministers.
Mr Singh argued that the 1991 Act had been drafted carefully to grant eventual control over the administration of the National Capital Territory to the Union and there was no need for an interpretation on the Constitutional spirit, as the express provisions of the Act clearly indicated the predominance of the Union Government.
On the question of whether the 1991 Act was a departure from the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, Mr Singh submitted that a reading of the 1963 Act with Article 239A and that of the 1991 Act with Article 239AA of the Constitution would show that the latter was on the same lines as the 1963 Act. Accordingly, the reliance placed on the decisions in Samsher Singh and Devi Vallabhbhai Tandel by the High Court of Delhi in its impugned decision was valid.
The gist of Mr Singh’s arguments is that the Delhi government claim to powers which had clearly been delineated under Article 239AA and the subsequent Act of 1991 is beyond the Constitutional Scheme. Arguments in the case will resume before the Constitutional Bench on Tuesday, 28.11.2017.
(This post relies on contributions from Mr Ayush Puri)