A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday said the lieutenant governor of Delhi is bound by the “aid and advice” of the council of ministers of the Delhi government in all matters under its jurisdiction.
Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said the lieutenant governor cannot act in a mechanical manner, Live Law reported. He added that the Centre cannot “usurp powers on areas within the dominion of states”, while noting that Delhi does not have the status of a state.
“The lieutenant governor can only refer differences of opinion under Article 239AA (4) to the president only in exceptional matters,” The Hindu quoted the chief justice as saying. “This is an exception not the general rule. He has to act in the spirit of constitutional trust and morality.” Misra added that the lieutenant governor must work harmoniously with elected government. “L-G is the administrative head but he cannot act as an obstructionist.”
Justice DY Chandrachud said the real authority to make decisions lies with the elected government. “This is the meaning of ‘aid and advice,” he said. “Titular head has to act in accordance to aid and advice.”
The court reserved its verdict on December 6 on appeals that the Aam Aadmi Party-led government filed in 2016 against a Delhi High Court judgement declaring the lieutenant governor the sole administrator of the region. The AAP moved the High Court after the Centre issued a notification in May 2015, giving the lieutenant governor new powers such as control over the bureaucracy.
The AAP government had claimed the lieutenant governor paralysed its executive functions and bureaucrats were not obeying the orders of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. In February, the state government said it wants more administrative powers and not statehood. The Delhi Assembly, however, adopted a resolution calling for full statehood during a special session on June 10.
During the hearings, the Supreme Court had said that though the lieutenant governor has the power to block the state government’s decisions, such disagreements must not be trivial or contrived. It had asked the lieutenant governor to refer decisions to the president of India in case of disagreements with the government.