Arguments Summary Day 10: November 23, 2017

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh appearing on behalf of the Union of India continued his arguments before the Constitutional Bench hearing the case pertaining to Special Status of Delhi under Article 239AA. Today, he argued that Article 239AA needs to be read harmoniously in light of specific acts dealing with the powers of Union Territories.

Mr Singh contended that Article 239AA is a not a complete code in itself and the Scheme of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 (1991 Act) 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 LG had been given control over the financial administration of Delhi (Sections 22, 27 & 30). This was indicative of the fact 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 1991 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. The 1991 Act had been drafted in such a manner as to grant predominant powers to the Union Government with the State having a secondary authority. Consequently, inspite of Delhi's special status, it continues to be a Union Territory and therefore under the control of the Central Government.

It was his submission that the LG 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 LG 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 NCT to the Union Government. Consequently, any interpretation on the lines of preserving the constitutional spirit was redundant.

On the question of whether the 1991 Act was a departure from the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 (1963 Act), 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 1991 Act 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 statehood which had clearly been delineated under Article 239AA and the 1991 Act 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)