Supreme Court Setback For Delhi Lt Governor Over Civic Body Nominations

The Delhi administration had argued that the Lieutenant Governor should not have the authority to appoint aldermen above those for civic bodies, and the Supreme Court of India reserved its decision on this issue in its ruling. Destabilising the democratically elected municipal corporation is what it implies.

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The highest court of appeal in a state or territory with a lieutenant governor is known as the Supreme Court of Lieutenant Governor (SLG). The court is tasked with interpreting the state’s or territory’s constitution and has the authority to hear and decide appeals from every other court in the state or territory.

Depending on the state or territory, the SLG’s makeup may differ, but it typically consists of a chief justice and many associate justices chosen by the lieutenant governor with the support of the state legislature. Justices are appointed for a set period of time, usually until retirement.

The SLG ensures that the judiciary continues to be a co-equal arm of government capable of making decisions that are unbiased and in the best interests of justice by operating independently from the executive and legislative branches. All other courts in the state or territory must abide by the SLG’s final ruling, which is regarded as binding.

According to Article 124 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court of India was formed as the supreme court of the nation. The court operates as a separate institution from the legislative and executive arms of government. The court has jurisdiction in original, appellate, and advisory matters.

The Indian Supreme Court is made up of a Chief Justice and up to 34 other judges. In consultation with the Chief Justice of India and other senior judges, the President of India appoints judges. Until they retire at the necessary age of 65, justices are appointed for life.

The Indian Supreme Court performs the following duties:

1. Interpreting the Indian Constitution to determine the constitutionality of laws and government actions.

2. Functioning as the last level of appeal in both civil and criminal cases.

3. Executing judicial reviews of administrative decisions and acts.

4. Resolving conflicts between state and territorial governments as well as those between them.

5. Providing legal advice on issues that the President of India has referred to it.

The Supreme Court of India has the authority to consider appeals from the territory’s High Court in the case of regions governed by Lieutenant Governors.

When Chief Justice DY Chandrachud was hearing a challenge filed by the AAP government contesting the appointments made by the lieutenant governor, he questioned it as a setback and enquired as to the authority behind the nominations. There were many questions and ambiguities raised by the Supreme Court bench regarding the authority behind the nominees. In addition, the bench required clarifications about the constitution if it were to accept the LG’s authority to appoint aldermen.

In response, the law officer explained the meaning of “aid and advice” in relation to the authority that the Delhi government had used to designate members of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, which was distinct from what had been stated here. On the other hand, Mr. Sanjay Jain, the Additional Solicitor General, said that because the Lt Governor is the administrator and petitions opposing the nominees came straight to his office, the concept of aid and advice is not applicable in this situation.

On May 12, the top court made the observation that in order to nominate 10 aldermen to the MCD, the lieutenant governor must act with the “aid and advice” of the Delhi government’s council of ministers.

Senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi, who is representing the Delhi government, has cited current and 2018 Constitution Bench rulings on control over services and indicated to the court that the Lt. Governor must act in accordance with the assistance and advice of the government. Aldermen can be appointed to any committee, he claimed, because there are 12 zones and 12 ward committees. The LG has taken the initiative to directly nominate the members of the MCD for the first time in the past 30 years, whereas previously it was always based on aid and advice (of the government), according to what he also said.

A five-judge constitution bench also met last Thursday on May 11, 2023, and made the argument that the Delhi government lacks authority over property, the police, and public order. As a result, the MCD’s ability to manage the day-to-day operations of the national capital was restricted. Although it has not been endorsed, it has been stated that the administration’s nominations are unlawful and will be quashed soon because no petition may come from the elected government and because the nominations file was sent to the department well after the nominations themselves, which were made before January 5. 

We are still waiting to see how the higher authority will rule in this entire episode.

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