The Supreme Court on Wednesday handed a major victory to Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal in his bitter power tussle with Lieutenant Governor (LG) Anil Baijal, ruling that the LG has no independent power to take decisions and is bound by the elected government's advice.
"There is no room for absolutism and there is no room for anarchism also," the five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling pronounced by Chief Justice Dipak Misra. The ruling also held that the LG, who is appointed by the Centre, cannot act as an "obstructionist".
The ruling also lays down for the first time clear guidelines for the LG's conduct and delineates the powers of the two branches of the executive in Delhi, which does not have the status of a full state yet elects its own MLAs and government.
It added that all the decisions of the council of ministers must be communicated to the LG, but that did not mean his concurrence was required.
The verdict set off celebrations among Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters and workers, who danced in the streets, distributed sweets and beat drums.
"A big victory for the people of Delhi ... a big victory for democracy," Kejriwal tweeted.
A big victory for the people of Delhi...a big victory for democracy...— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) July 4, 2018
His deputy, Manish Sisodia, termed the judgement "historic" and recalled the landmark mandate that the people of Delhi had given to AAP in the Assembly elections in February 2015 when the party won 67 of 70 seats.
AAP hails SC verdict, accuses Modi govt of creating 'chaos'
Heaving a sigh of relief over the Supreme Court verdict, the AAP leadership accused the Narendra Modi-led administration of creating "chaos" in the national capital in the past three-and-a-half years.
Kejriwal welcomed the apex court verdict as a "big victory" for the people of Delhi and democracy.
"Can Modiji revoke 3 years 5 months of chaos in Delhi? Will Delhi people forgive BJP for ruining 3 years 5 months (sic)?," AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj asked in a tweet.
IMPORTANT - Can Modi ji revoke 3 years 5 months of chaos in Delhi?— Saurabh Bharadwaj (@Saurabh_MLAgk) July 4, 2018
Will Delhi people forgive BJP for ruining 3 years 5 months ? pic.twitter.com/eJwHa7ktd2
He drew a parallel between the previous Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government in Delhi and the current AAP regime and pointed out how the ruling party was obstructed from working in the national capital.
"AAP Govt was formed in Feb 2015, three months later, In May 2015, Modi Govt brought this notification which took away 'services' from AAP Govt. This means Sheila Dixit Govt had all control over her officers/employees, Kejriwal Govt was left with zero control (sic)."
"Modi Govt was formed in May 2014 & just 2 months later, Modi Govt brought a notification which took away powers of Anti-Corruption branch. Means Sheila Dixit had ACB for 15 years but was taken away because Modi was too scared of Arvind Kejriwal and his ACB (sic)," Bhardwaj said in a series of tweets.
REMINDER 1 - AAP Govt was formed in Feb 2015, three months later, In May 2015 , Modi Govt brought this notification which took away 'services' from AAP Govt.— Saurabh Bharadwaj (@Saurabh_MLAgk) July 4, 2018
This means Sheila Dixit Govt had all control over her officers/employees, Kejriwal Govt was left with zero control.
REMINDER 2 - Modi Govt was formed in May 2014 & just 2 months later, Modi Govt brought a notification which took away powers of Anti-Corruption branch.— Saurabh Bharadwaj (@Saurabh_MLAgk) July 4, 2018
Means Sheila Dixit had ACB for 15 years but was taken away because Modi was too scared of Arvind Kejriwal and his ACB. pic.twitter.com/tFuHC3EVOX
He also said the provision of aid and advice of the elected government was binding on the LG during Dikshit's rule, adding that it was done away with after Kejriwal became the chief minister.
"Under Sheila Dixit Govt, Aid & Advice of Elected Govt was binding on LG. LG was not free to reject schemes. For Kejriwal Govt, LG is free to take decisions, has been rejecting all important decisions of Govt. CCTV, Doorstep delivery of Ration, Muholla clinics rejected or delayed (sic)," the AAP leader tweeted.
3-Under Sheila Dixit Govt, Aid & Advice of Elected Govt was binding on LG. LG was not free to reject schemes— Saurabh Bharadwaj (@Saurabh_MLAgk) July 4, 2018
For Kejriwal Govt, LG is free to take decisions, has been rejecting all important decisions of Govt.CCTV, Door step delivery of Ration, Muholla clinics rejected or delayed pic.twitter.com/OozXCLOjXo
Wednesday's decision by the apex court comes as a major victory for the AAP government, which had been in a constant tug of war with the LG over the powers wielded by the two branches of the executive.
After SC verdict, BJP says AAP should shun full statehood demand
The Delhi BJP has welcomed the Supreme Court verdict and said the ruling party should now shun its "political demand" of full statehood to the city.
BJP MLA and Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta said the apex court verdict on Wednesday has directed the AAP government to follow the law and it is expected that they will do so.
"We welcome the SC verdict. The Delhi government should have been following the law even without the order of the court. We hope, they will do so after the judgement," he said.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said the verdict has "decided" that Delhi is a Union Territory and the AAP should stop raising their "political demand" for full statehood to the city.
"It is now decided that Delhi is a UT. So, the AAP and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should stop raising the full statehood demand."
Kapoor said the judgement has directed for more cooperation between the LG and the city Cabinet and that all parties concerned should respect the verdict.
Rights of elected governments cannot be usurped, say Left parties
Welcoming the Supreme Court verdict that the LG could not interfere with the policy decisions of the AAP government, the Left parties on Wednesday said the judgment once again showed that the rights of elected governments could not be usurped.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the apex court verdict had brought the misuse of power by the LGs and governors into "sharp" focus.
"The role of LGs and Governors and their misuse has been brought into sharp focus by today's judgement. BJP's charade of cooperative federalism and in reality destroying our federal structure is condemnable. LGs/Governors cannot usurp rights of an elected state government (sic)," he wrote on Twitter.
The role of LGs and Governors and their misuse has been brought into sharp focus by today’s judgement. BJP’s charade of cooperative federalism and in reality destroying our federal structure is condemnable. LGs/Governors cannot usurp rights of an elected state government. https://t.co/MBHAAA4kBg— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) July 4, 2018
The CPI echoed the sentiment and said the verdict was applicable to all the states.
"We welcome the SC judgment, which makes it very clear that the elected representatives cannot be ignored as they represent the people. The LGs and governors are selected by the president and the elected council. Though the order is for a particular state, it is applicable to all the LGs and governors. Even the Centre should take note of it," CPI leader D Raja told news agency PTI.
The Left parties had been protesting for long against the governors undermining the rights of the elected governments in various states.
SC ruling not a vindication for AAP, says Sheila Dikshit
Downplaying AAP's victory proclamations over the Supreme Court verdict, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Wednesday said the ruling that the LG is bound by the government's advice was "not a vindication" for the party as "it has always been so".
Dikshit, who was the chief minister of Delhi from 1998-2013, said her government may have had differences with the LG, but there was never any "tussle".
"We may have had differences. When the differences came out, after talking to each other we sorted out those differences," Dikshit told news agency PTI after the ruling.