Key Points: Government of NCT of Delhi vs. Union of India

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Supreme Court heard the matter between the Delhi government and the Union of India that dealt with the asymmetric federal model of governance in India. The issues addressed in this case were regarding the control over the services in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The issue rose to the Supreme Court after the High Court judgment interpreted the 2015 government Article 239 which mandated to obtain Lieutenant Governor’s approval for all administrative decisions. Following are the major key points in the judgment delivered by the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court:

  • “In a democracy, accountability lies with the people who are the ultimate sovereign. The parliamentary form of government adopted in India essentially requires that Parliament and the government, consisting of elected representatives, to be accountable to the people. The Cabinet consisting of elected representatives is collectively responsible for the proper administration of the country and is answerable to the legislature for its actions.”
  • “The Constitution Bench dealt with the constitutional status of NCTD and the modalities of its administration based on the division of powers, functions and responsibilities of the elected government of NCTD and the Lieutenant Governor, who as the nominee of the President of India, serves as the representative of the Union Government.”
  • “The Delhi Fire Service is constituted under the Delhi Fire Service Act 2007, enacted by the Legislative Assembly of NCTD.”
  • “The existence of power and the exercise of the power are two different conceptions, and should not be conflated. It is settled law that whether a power exists cannot be derived from whether and how often it has been exercised.”
  • “NCTD, similar to other States, also represents the representative form of government. The involvement of the Union of India in the administration of NCTD is limited by constitutional provisions, and any further expansion would be contrary to the constitutional scheme of governance.”
  • “Homogeneous class of Union Territories with similar governance structures does not exist.”
  • “By virtue of Article 239AA, NCTD is accorded a “sui generis” status, setting it apart from other Union Territories.”
  • “The executive power of NCTD is co-extensive with its legislative power, that is, it shall extend to all matters with respect to which it has the power to legislate.”
  • “The exercise of rule-making power under the proviso to Article 309 does not oust the legislative power of the appropriate authority to make laws over Entry 41 of the State List.”