Centre seeks review of SC verdict that gave Delhi govt. power over services

Petition says the judgment has upset the basic tenets of the constitutional idea of federalism and has equated the NCT of Delhi to a State by granting it legislative and executive authority

May 20, 2023 12:20 pm | Updated 11:01 pm IST - New Delhi

A view of Supreme Court of India

A view of Supreme Court of India | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Centre has sought a review of a Supreme Court verdict upholding the Delhi government’s power to make laws and wield control over civil services in the national capital.

The Centre said the judgment by a Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud had the effect of declaring Delhi a “full-fledged State” when it is actually a Union Territory.

“Union Territories are not ‘States’. They are the territories of the Union falling outside the territories of the States. The judgment has upset the basic tenets of the constitutional idea of federalism. It has equated the National Capital Territory of Delhi to a State by granting it legislative and executive authority akin to a State,” the Centre submitted in its 370-page review petition filed in the top court.

The Union government said Delhi has never been elevated to the level of a State. The Centre said the judgment was self-contradictory — terming that Delhi had a sui generis or special status while at the same time treating it as a ‘State’.

“The Legislative Assembly of NCT of Delhi is not a full-fledged Legislative Assembly and does not elevate Delhi to the status of a State List,” the review petition said.

The Centre argued that for a Union Territory, the Parliament is the sole legislative body. Parliament could make any law in respect of the Union Territories.

The judgment, though accepting the superior legislative authority of the Parliament over Delhi, had gone on to recognise extensive legislative and executive powers to the Delhi Council of Ministers and the Legislative Assembly, including over the ‘services’.

The review plea said the legislative powers are distributed between Parliament and State Legislatures and not between Parliament and Legislative Assemblies of Union Territories.

The petition further said the five-judge Bench judgment contradicts a 1997 nine-judge Bench decision of the Supreme Court in New Delhi Municipal Corporation vs. State of Punjab, in which it was “clearly held that notwithstanding the 69th Amendment introducing a Legislative Assembly for Delhi, the NCT of Delhi remains a Union Territory”.

The Centre said Article 309 of the Constitution clearly distinguished between the Centre and State services. The civil services in a Union Territory clearly belonged to the Centre. The appointments and transfers are made in the Delhi administration in accordance with the Central recruitment rules approved by the President through Lieutenant Governor (LG) under Article 309.

The May 11 judgment has “substantially diluted the powers of the LG, who is a delegate of the President, who is the executive head of the Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD)”. The LG’s role as the ‘Administrator of the Union Territory of Delhi’ has been thinned to three areas of public order, police and land, the Centre said.

“The judgment wholly ignores that the nominee of the President, the LG or the Central government, are also manifestations of democracy, exhibiting the democratic conscience of the country as a whole when compared to the elected government of Delhi. The Central government is administered by the people of the entire country who have a vital and preponderant interest in the governance of the capital of the entire country,” the review petition contended.

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