Supreme Court refers issue of control over administrative services in Delhi to a larger Constitution bench for consideration

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A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana today passed an order referring to larger Constitution bench the aspect of control over administrative services in Delhi. The court passed the order of reference in a plea challenging amendments in sections of the ‘Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Act. The bench also consisting of Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli posted the matter for hearing on Wednesday (May 11, 2022). 

The Supreme Court on April 28, 2022 had reserved its order on an application filed by the Central Government seeking direction to refer Delhi Government's plea which has challenged the constitutionality of Sections 21, 24, 33, 44 of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 and Rules 3, 6A, 10, 14, 15, 19, 22, 23, 25, 47A, 49, 52 and 57 of Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules, 1993, to a Constitution bench.

It is the Centre's contention that issue under challenge includes a Delhi High Court order which has upheld the notification by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) dated 21 May 2016, which replaced a 1998 notification on the powers of the Lieutenant Governor and the Delhi government.

The Delhi Government has averred before Top Court (in the challenge against the GNCTD Act and transaction and business rules) that the Centre, through its amendments, has, “given more power to the Lieutenant Governor than the elected government of the people of Delhi”, according to a press release in the public domain.

The Delhi Government in its petition has stated that the amendments by the Centre are "an attempt to treat the LG as the ‘default administering authority over the NCT of Delhi’, by equating the position of the LG with that of the “government”, by authorising the LG to withhold consent from bills that, in his judgment, maybe “incidentally” outside the scope of legislative assembly’s legislative powers".

It has been further stated that the new laws encroach upon the scope of the Delhi Legislative Assembly’s core legislative functions by interfering with the power of the Assembly to frame its own rules of business or to hold the Government to account, a core function of any legislature.

“Centre disenfranchised the people of Delhi, and violated their political rights under the Constitution,” states the plea.

Case Title: GNCTD Vs. Union of India