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Supreme Court restores powers to Delhi Government

In a pivotal judgment on Thursday, the Supreme Court reinstated the full authority of the Delhi government, emphasizing that the Lieutenant Governor (LG), who is a central government appointee, does not possess autonomous decision-making power and must operate under the counsel of the elected government.

This landmark decision concludes a protracted dispute between the Delhi government and the LG, marking a significant triumph for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, which has been embroiled in this conflict for years.

The ruling, delivered by a five-member Supreme Court bench, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, clarified that the LG does not have the independence to act without the elected government and must adhere to the advice provided by the council of ministers. Additionally, the court stated that the LG cannot deny approval to any bill sanctioned by the Delhi Assembly, nor can he meddle in the city's day-to-day governance.

This judgment is a considerable blow to the central government, which attempted to exercise control over the Delhi government through the LG. The court's decision now clears the path for the AAP government to operate free from LG interference.

The court detailed several critical conclusions:

  • Union Territories don't share a common governance structure.
  • National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD) stands out among other Union Territories due to its "sui generis" status as per Article 239AA.
  • NCTD's Legislative Assembly has jurisdiction over areas in List II and List III, barring specifically excluded ones from List II. Parliament holds legislative power over all matters in Lists II and III pertaining to NCTD.
  • NCTD's executive authority coincides with its legislative power.
  • The Union of India only has executive authority over three areas in List II where NCTD lacks legislative competence.
  • NCTD's executive power is subject to the Union's executive power granted by the Constitution or by a Parliamentary law.
  • Article 239AA(3) does not further restrict NCTD's legislative power over the State or Concurrent List.
  • NCTD's legislative power is to be guided by the broader principles and provisions of the Constitution.
  • NCTD has legislative and executive power over "Services", that is, Entry 41 of List II of the Seventh Schedule.

The court's ruling endorses democracy and federalism in India, underscoring the elected government's principal role in state or union territory governance and asserting that the central government cannot intervene in their daily administration.

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