On 29.11.2017, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Union of India continued with his arguments before the Constitutional Bench hearing the case pertaining to the Special Status of Delhi. In the previous hearing on 28.11.2017, ASG Maninder Singh had argued that the status of NCT of Delhi even with an elected Assembly was no different than that of other Union Territories. Today, ASG Maninder Singh focused on identifying the constitutional source of the Centre’s overarching powers over the NCT.

Mr. Singh began by referring to the Balakrishnan Committee Report 1987 (Committee on Reorganisation of Delhi 1987) to argue that there was no legislative intention of treating NCT as a State. Justice Chandrachud interjected, saying that it was accepted that full Statehood couldn’t be given due to national interest. But, shouldn’t the Delhi Government be given primacy for subjects where it had the legislative power to make laws? Mr. Singh replied that the effect of any subject on national interest could not be foreseen, so the ultimate control for all matters should lie with the President acting through LG.

Justice Ashok Bhushan enquired – which provision gave the Centre the ultimate control over Delhi? Mr Singh replied that Art 239AA read with Rule 9(2) of the Transaction of Business Rules, 1993 gave the Centre ultimate control. He added that past history showed that the LG had approved the Delhi Government decisions in over 90 percent of the cases. The bench seemed inclined to agree with his submission that the LG had to be at least kept apprised of all decisions.

Justice Chandrachud pointed out that though Rule 23 of the Transaction of Business Rules made the approval of LG mandatory for some areas, Rule 14 only mandated that the LG be made ‘aware’ of decisions in other areas. Mr Singh replied that the constitutional rationale for making the LG aware was to give the last word to the Centre on all matters concerning NCT. Justice Bhushan agreed that the day to day administration of Delhi was with the State government but over all control was with the Centre. Mr. Singh responded that the Centre had the final power to disagree with anything.

Mr. Singh then referred to para 7.1 of the Balakrishnan Report which listed reasons for denying Statehood to Delhi. The Report noted definitively that the Centre could take an interest in all matters of Delhi Administration, not just ‘land’ and ‘police’, so the Centre would have to be considered to be the overriding authority. Mr. Singh mentioned that even the Delhi Fire Service Act and Delhi Administrative Service (DANICS) are Central legislations and this highlighted the predominant position that the Centre enjoyed with respect to the Delhi Government. The next hearing is scheduled for tomorrow [30.11.2017].

 

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