NGT’s order to appoint Vinai Kumar Saxena, Delhi LG, as head of the High-level Committee for the Yamuna Rejuvenation Project, stayed by Supreme Court

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On July 11, 2023, the Supreme Court of India stayed an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to appoint the Delhi Lieutenant Governor, Vinai Kumar Saxena, as the head of the High-level Committee for the Yamuna Rejuvenation Project. The Delhi government argued that the order passed by the NGT is violative of Delhi’s constitutional scheme of governance. The SC bench hearing the matter includes Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice Manoj Misra, and Justice PS Narasimha. During the court proceedings, the Senior Advocate appearing for the Delhi Government, Dr. AM Singhvi, argued that such a power should not be given to the Governor alone. He further submitted that the head of the committee should be a domain expert. In response, Justice Narasimha said that “it’s a question of proprietary”. CJI further asked Dr. Singhvi, “According to you, they should have asked an expert”. Senior Advocate Singhvi replied affirmatively to this; therefore, the bench issued a notice for the same. CJI added, “There shall be a stay of the operation on the direction of NGT to the extent that the LG has been asked to be the head. We are not staying the entire order.”

The plea, filed via Advocate Shadan Farasat, stated that “The executive power for matters relating to local governance lies exclusively with the State Government (GNCTD) under the Constitution, except to the extent limited by an express Parliamentary law.” The Delhi Government argued by referring to Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution, “LG is only a nominal figurehead except in areas of police, order, and land where he exercises his powers in lieu of the power designated by the Constitution.” Moreover, they also referred to a judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in 2018, State of NCT of Delhi vs. Union of India, which held that “The elected government of the NCT of Delhi has exclusive executive powers over all subjects in the State and Concurrent List, apart from the three excepted subjects of ‘public order, ‘place’, and ‘land’.” After considering all the arguments, the SC bench holds the order of the NGT today (July 11).