Judgment Summary: July 4th, 2018
The 5 judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices DY Chandrachud, A.M. Khanwilkar, Ashok Bhushan and A.K. Sikri unanimously held that the Chief Minister and not the Lieutenant Governor (LG) is the executive head of the government. The judgment was delivered by CJI Dipak Misra speaking for himself and Justices A.K. Sikri and A.M. Khanwilkar concurred. Justices DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan wrote two separate concurring opinions.
The judgment focused on three key constitutional questions:-
(1) Status of Delhi under the Constitution – All three opinions held that Delhi is not a State. They cited the 5 judge bench decision in NDMC v State of Punjab as a binding precedent.
CJI Misra held that though Delhi is not a State, it enjoys a sui-generis special status. He added that the LG is at best an administrator in a limited sense. CJI Misra did not view Delhi as a Union Territory where LG is the executive head.
Justice Chandrachud was more categorical in stating that the administration of Union Territory under Article 239(1) is different from Article 239AA which provides for an elected Legislature. Hence Delhi is not a Union Territory.
Justice Bhushan invoked Article 239(1) and held Delhi to be a Union Territory.
(2) LG to act on 'aid and advice' of the Council of Ministers – The judgment held that the executive power of Delhi government is co-extensive with the legislative power of the Delhi Assembly. Thus the LG is bound by the 'aid and advice' of the Council of Ministers on all matters where Delhi Assembly has the power to make laws.
CJI Dipak Misra cited principles of 'Collective Responsibility' and 'Co-Operative Federalism' to support his stance.
Justice DY Chandrachud held 'cabinet form of government' to be a basic feature of the Constitution.
In the case of Delhi, Justice Bhushan held that the LG is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
(3) LG cannot refer 'every' matter to the President – The proviso to Article 239AA(4) allows the LG to reserve “any matter” for consideration of the President where the LG has a difference of opinion with the Council of Ministers. While holding that “any matter” could not mean "every matter", the judgment clarified that this power can be exercised only in the exceptional situations where there is a genuine difference of opinion with the Council of Ministers.
Justice Chandrachud added that the LG can reserve matters pertaining to only “vital national interest”. This should be done as a last resort only after consultations with the concerned Minister and the Cabinet has not resolved the issue.
Read the decision matrix here.