NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its verdict on one of the most contentious political questions in recent years - who really rules Delhi? The power tussle, which is been especially underscored since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took power in 2015, is likely to be brought to a conclusion today.
The Supreme Court will be delivering its verdict on the AAP's plea against an order by Delhi High Court which in August 2016 clearly identified the Lieutenant Governor (LG) as the administrative head of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNTCD). The Delhi HC had said the LG governs Delhi with advice from the Chief Minister and his/her cabinet.
The battle for control of Delhi's government has been a key area of focus and disruption for the AAP government, which has twice campaigned on a platform that promises full statehood to Delhi. Presently, Delhi is a Union Territory, which gives a large degree of administrative power to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). This has seen the AAP periodically accuse the BJP government at the Centre of not allowing it, an elected government, to run the city-state.
This has meant that though Delhi has an elected Assembly, its Chief Minister or his/her cabinet do not enjoy the same administrative power as their counterparts in India's 'full' states. The Delhi government also does not have control some high-visibility fields, like the police.
A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had in November 2017 said the elected government of Delhi needs the approval of the LG to run the city-state. But, it added, the LG does not have the power to unreasonably delay files. Chief Justice Dipak Mishra and justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan had reserved verdict in the case after hearing the case for 15 days.
The verdict is expected to come just a week after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and other ministers conducted a sit-in protest at the residence of the LG, calling for an end to what they called an 'undeclared strike' by IAS officers.
The Supreme Court verdict would also have repercussions in Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry), where the elected Congress government has been locked on a similar battle for control with LG Kiran Bedi.