SC refuses to stay Delhi Lt Guv's decisions, seeks centre's response to AAP pleas

The Supreme Court has refused to grant an interim stay on the Delhi High Court verdict which has held that Lieutenant Governor is the administrative head whose prior consent is needed in all administrative decisions.

A Bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and NV Ramana, however, sought the centre's response to Arvind Kejriwal government's appeal against a democratically elected government being subservient to a government appointed official - Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung.

The apex court sought response from the centre within six weeks on seven appeals filed by AAP against the 4 August verdict of the Delhi High Court.

The bench also declined to stay the recent decision of LG Najeeb Jung to set up a three-member committee to scrutinise over 400 files and past orders of the elected city government.

The Delhi high court in its 4 August verdict had held that Delhi continued to be a union territory (UT) and its administrative head was the LG who was not bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers of the city government.

Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, meanwhile, said the LG cannot go ahead with the inquiry into various decisions taken by the Kejriwal government when the Supreme Court was hearing the seven petitions of the Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) democratically constituted body.

The apex court, however, said there was no need for a stay on the high court ruling or the LG's move as it would hear AAP's appeals on a priority basis, and posted the cases for final hearing on 15 November.

The SC bench also granted two weeks to the city government to file its reply to the centre's response.

The apex court bench, however, said it would consider referring the cases to a larger Bench.

Appearing for AAP, senior advocate KK Venugopal pointed out that the high court had reduced a popularly elected government as an adjunct of the LG and this was against the spirit of democracy. This, he point4ed out, would not only make the present government non-functional but block the path of future governments as well.

Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi pleaded against entertaining appeals and told the court that a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court had already ruled that Delhi was a UT, not a state, as far back as 1996- in a case `New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) versus State of Punjab'.

The Attorney General argued that Delhi's status as a UT was clear from Articles 239 (dealing with administration of UTs) and 366 (collection of taxes), besides the first schedule that explained the character of each and every state and UT.

Rohatgi also found fault with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia filing the appeals while law mandated that this could be done only by bureaucrats.

Venugopal, however, pleaded that Sisodia had to move the apex court as no Secretary was not ready to sign it in the absence of LG's nod. Access to justice could not be stopped and doing so was against legal jurisprudence.

The Delhi government has filed seven appeals as it had approached the Delhi High Court time and again whenever there was a dispute with the LG on important issues like postings of bureaucrats. The High Court had however heard all the petitions together and delivered a consolidated judgment.