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The battle of the selected versus the elected came to an end in Delhi. After a long legal battle, the Supreme Court restored the powers of the elected government of Delhi, and rapped the Lieutenant Governor (LG) for being an “obstructionist” on various fronts. Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, while reading the judgment, said, “The LG cannot act independently and has to act as per aid and advice of Council of Ministers.”
The CJI emphasised that the LG has to work harmoniously with his Council of Ministers. Further, he reiterated that the Council must communicate its decisions to the LG, and this does not mean the Council is bound by the LG. The CJI went to the extent of saying there is no space for “anarchy and absolutism” in the Constitution—a major blow to the tyranny and persecution of the unelected that Delhi was subjected to for three long years.
The court said the differences of opinion between the LG and the Council should have a “sound rationale”, and the former should not adopt an obstructionist attitude. The judgment is a serious blow to the Modi government, which had curtailed the Delhi government’s powers in May 2015 via an unconstitutional notification, endangering the spirit of democracy.
After its humiliating defeat in Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) consistently tried to sabotage the Delhi government. Every major policy decision meant for the betterment of people was declared “null and void”. Delhi suffered for three years with mounting problems. Arvind Kejriwal was wrongly criticised from all corners, while the LG enjoyed power and authority without any accountability.
It’s to be hoped that after yesterday’s judgment, the LG will respect the apex court’s order. Bureaucrats should take the order in a positive spirit, and start cooperating with the democratically elected government. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is all set to sort out the problems of the people of Delhi.
As soon as the court order came, Kejriwal called a Cabinet meeting, directing all government functionaries to operate according to the order. He also asked for the expediting of proposals related to doorstep delivery of rations—which the Centre is also trying to emulate, and will set a new benchmark in public services—and CCTV installation, since women’s safety is an urgent issue in Delhi.
But now, it is being reported that the Services Department isn’t following the orders of transfer and posting. This raises some concerns:
1. The Supreme Court clearly said the Centre has executive powers only on three subjects—public order, police, and land—and the Council of Ministers has executive powers on all other subjects. There is absolutely no ambiguity in this. Wouldn’t this imply that executive power over services lies with the Council?
2. Technically, the May 2015 notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs has not been quashed by the constitutional bench and will be done by a division bench—a mere formality. In the light of the above judgment, can the LG still exercise executive powers over services? If he does, he will be in contempt of the Supreme Court.
3. If the LG can’t exercise executive powers, and officers insist they will not obey the minister’s orders till the MHA notification is explicitly quashed, will there be no transfer orders now?
In the end, though, the power of the vote has been upheld in Delhi, keeping the welfare of 20 million people of Delhi in mind and strengthening their faith in the democratic structure of this country. The day should be marked as a victory of the people’s will over authoritarianism and high-handedness.