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‘Will deal with constitutional issues’ — SC refuses to be drawn into AAP-Modi govt power tussle

SC says no to Deputy CM's affidavit seeking central govt's response on civil servants not cooperating with AAP govt. Modi govt claims submissions made to distract from legal issue.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday refused to direct the Centre to file its response to an affidavit filed by Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in which he accused the civil servants in the national capital of not cooperating with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government.

The affidavit was filed in a pending matter related to the pending dispute over who controls the “services in the national capital”, which the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D. Y. Chandrachud is set to hear on 24 November.

Appearing for the AAP government, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi requested the bench to ask the Centre to file its response, if any, before the next date of hearing. However, this demand was opposed by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, who on behalf of the Centre objected to the “politicisation” of a pending matter.

Jain claimed the submissions made in the affidavit was an attempt to divert the attention from the legal issue pending for adjudication before a larger bench. He even objected to the circulation of the affidavit to the media much before the matter could be heard.

At this, the bench led by CJI Chandrachud told Singhvi that the court will not ask the Centre to respond to the fresh affidavit.

“You could have made this submission during the hearing of arguments,” the bench told the senior counsel. “We will deal with the constitutional issues. We will step back from the actual arena of conflict.”

“We will freeze the pleadings [filing of documents and affidavits] now and let the Constitution Bench take the matter now. The opposite side [the Centre] need not file a reply to the affidavit,” it added.

The Constitution Bench is expected to make an authoritative pronouncement on who has control over services in Delhi — whether the elected government of the National Capital Territory, which currently is run by the AAP, or the Centre.

The AAP Government has challenged the validity of the amended Government of NCT of Delhi Act, 2021, which apparently gives more powers to Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor (L-G).

This is the third round of litigation over the power tussle between the L-G — nominated by the Centre — and the elected AAP government. The dispute over who has administrative control on Delhi continues to be a subject of court litigation, despite two earlier judicial pronouncements — one by a constitution bench and then one by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court.

In 2018, a five-judge bench had held that the L-G was “generally bound to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, except on law and order and land”. It laid down the broad principle on the L-G’s decision-making power and said that the NCT Council of Ministers have to communicate all decisions to the L-G, but such communication does not mean the L-G’s concurrence is required.

On 14 February, 2019, a two-judge bench delivered a split verdict on who controls the administrative services in Delhi. In view of these divergent views, the case was referred to a three-judge bench.

However, accepting the Centre’s demand, the top court on 6 May referred the contentious issue to a five-judge Constitution Bench. While doing so, the apex court made it clear that it would only rule on the issue related to “services” as it was not dealt with by the previous Constitution Bench.  

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: AAP vs L-G tussle — no final word on ‘services’ as SC has deferred case thrice in 2 years


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