Case BriefsSupreme Court

Lieutenant Governor and the Council of Ministers must attempt to settle any point of difference by way of discussion and dialogue.

Supreme Court: The 5-Judge Constitutional Bench delivered a 535-page long Judgment in the much-hyped case requiring adjudication on the Constitutional matter of ‘statehood’ to NCT of Delhi. There was coalescence in views of the Hon’ble Judges, who in their separate opinions held that the real power for the administration of the Capital lies with the democratically elected Government of NCT of Delhi.

The appellant was before the Supreme Court, challenging the decision passed by the Delhi High Court dated 04-08-2016. The High Court had negatived appellant’s claim that status of the voters of NCT of Delhi, after 69th Constitutional Amendment, has moved from notional to real. The present reference to the Supreme Court invited the interpretation of Article 239AA of the Constitution that provides special status to the Capital. The appellant-Government of NCT of Delhi was represented by a battery of lawyers including Senior Advocates P. Chidambaram, Gopal Subramanium, Rajiv Dhawan, Indira Jaising and Shekhar Naphade. They contended that insertion of Article 239AA was intended to eradicate the hierarchical structure which functionally placed the LG in a superior position to that of the Council of Ministers. Maninder Singh, learned Additional Solicitor General of India, advanced arguments on behalf of the Respondent-Union of India and the LG. He argued that though Article 239AA envisages constitution of Legislative Assembly for the Capital, yet the President remained its Executive Head who exercised powers through LG.

A summary of conclusions as reached by the Hon’ble Judges in their separate opinions is mentioned hereinafter:

Dipak Misra, CJI for himself and A.K. Sikri and A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ.

  • Our Constitution contemplates a meaningful orchestration of federalism and democracy.
  • Union and State Government must embrace a collaborative federal architecture.
  • In light of NDMC v. State of Punjab, (1997) 7 SCC 339, it was clear that NCT of Delhi could not be accorded the status of ‘State’ under the present Constitutional scheme.
  • An interpretative dissection of Article 239AA reveals that both the Union and the State Government exercise power of making laws according to the Union, State, and Concurrent lists.
  • The words “aid and advice” employed in Article 239AA(4) mean that LG is bound by aid and advice of the Council of Ministers unless he exercises his power under the proviso.
  • Exercise of power under the proviso for reference of the matter to the President has to be done in exceptional cases only.
  • Decisions of Council of Ministers must be communicated to LG but that does not mean that his concurrence is required.

 Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, J.

  • Article 239AA represent a clear mandate of the Constitution to provide institutional governance founded on participatory, representative and responsive government.
  • If the expression ‘any matter’ mentioned in proviso to Article 239AA were to be read as ‘every matter’, it would lead to the President assuming administration of every aspect of the affairs of the Union Territory, thereby resulting in the negation of constitutional structure adopted for governance of the Capital.
  • The LG acts on the “aid and advice” of Council of Ministers; this recognizes that real decision making authority in a democratic form of government vests in the Executive.

Ashok Bhushan, J.

  • Executive power is coextensive with the legislative power. The policy of legislation can be given effect to only by executive machinery.
  • Legislative Assembly of NCT of Delhi represents views of elected representatives; their decisions have to be respected except where LG decides to make a reference to the President.
  • From persons holding high office, it is expected that they shall conduct themselves in the faithful discharge of their duties so as to ensure the smooth running of administration so that rights of all can be protected.
  • This matter traveled to the present Bench when a 2-judge bench comprising of A.K. Sikri and R.K. Agrawal, JJ. referred the matter to a Constitution Bench as substantial questions of law were involved. The reference was answered in the above terms and was further directed to be placed before appropriate regular Bench. [Government (NCT of Delhi) v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 661, decided on 04-07-2018]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The five-Judge Constitution Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra, A.K Sikri, A.M Khanwilkar, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan JJ., collectively pronounced separate concurring judgments, held:

Conclusions in seriatim:­ 

(i) While interpreting the provisions of the Constitution, the safe and most sound approach for the Constitutional Courts to adopt is to read the words of the Constitution in the light of the spirit of the Constitution so that the quintessential democratic nature of our Constitution and the paradigm of representative participation by way of citizenry engagement are not annihilated. The Courts must adopt such an interpretation which glorifies the democratic spirit of the Constitution.

(ii) In a democratic republic, the collective who are the sovereign elect their law making representatives for enacting laws and shaping policies which are reflective of the popular will. The elected representatives being accountable to the public must be accessible, approachable and act in a transparent manner. Thus, the elected representatives must display constitutional objectivity as a standard of representative governance which neither tolerates ideological fragmentation nor encourages any utopian fantasy, rather it lays stress on constitutional ideologies.

(iii) Constitutional morality, appositely understood, means the morality that has inherent elements in the constitutional norms and the conscience of the Constitution. Any act to garner justification must possess the potentiality to be in harmony with the constitutional impulse. In order to realize our constitutional vision, it is indispensable that all citizens and high functionaries in particular inculcate a spirit of constitutional morality which negates the idea of concentration of power in the hands of a few.

(iv) All the three organs of the State must remain true to the Constitution by upholding the trust reposed by the Constitution in them. The decisions taken by constitutional functionaries and the process by which such decisions are taken must have normative reasonability and acceptability. Such decisions, therefore, must be in accord with the principles of constitutional objectivity and symphonious with the spirit of the Constitution.

(v) The Constitution being the supreme instrument envisages the concept of constitutional governance which has, as its twin limbs, the principles of fiduciary nature of public power and the system of checks and balances. Constitutional governance, in turn, gives birth to the requisite constitutional trust which must be exhibited by all constitutional functionaries while performing their official duties.

(vi) Ours is a parliamentary form of government guided by the principle of collective responsibility of the Cabinet. The Cabinet owes a duty towards the legislature for every action taken in any of the Ministries and every individual Minister is responsible for every act of the Ministry. This principle of collective responsibility is of immense significance in the context of ‘aid and advice’. If a well deliberated legitimate decision of the Council of Ministers is not given effect to due to an attitude to differ on the part of the Lieutenant Governor, then the concept of collective responsibility would stand negated.

(vii) Our Constitution contemplates a meaningful orchestration of federalism and democracy to put in place an egalitarian social order, a classical unity in a contemporaneous diversity and a pluralistic milieu in eventual cohesiveness without losing identity. Sincere attempts should be made to give full­fledged effect to both these concepts.

(viii) The constitutional vision beckons both the Central and the State Governments alike with the aim to have a holistic edifice. Thus, the Union and the State Governments must embrace a collaborative federal architecture by displaying harmonious co­existence and interdependence so as to avoid any possible constitutional discord. Acceptance of pragmatic federalism and achieving federal balance has become a necessity requiring disciplined wisdom on the part of the Union and the State Governments by demonstrating a pragmatic orientation.

(ix) The Constitution has mandated a federal balance wherein independence of a certain required degree is assured to the State Governments. As opposed to centralism, a balanced federal structure mandates that the Union does not usurp all powers and the States enjoy freedom without any unsolicited interference from the Central Government with respect to matters which exclusively fall within their domain.

(x) There is no dearth of authorities with regard to the method and approach to be embraced by Constitutional Courts while interpreting the constitutional provisions. Some lay more emphasis on one approach over the other, while some emphasize that a mixed balance resulting in a unique methodology shall serve as the best tool. In spite of diverse views on the said concept, what must be kept primarily in mind is that the Constitution is a dynamic and heterogeneous instrument, the interpretation of which requires consideration of several factors which must be given their due weightage in order to come up with a solution harmonious with the purpose with which the different provisions were introduced by the framers of the Constitution or the Parliament.

(xi) In the light of the contemporary issues, the purposive method has gained importance over the literal approach and the Constitutional Courts, with the vision to realize the true and ultimate purpose of the Constitution not only in letter but also in spirit and armed with the tools of ingenuity and creativity, must not shy away from performing this foremost duty to achieve constitutional functionalism by adopting a pragmatic approach. It is, in a way, exposition of judicial sensibility to the functionalism of the Constitution which we call constitutional pragmatism. The spirit and conscience of the Constitution should not be lost in grammar and the popular will of the people which has its legitimacy in a democratic set up cannot be allowed to lose its purpose in simple semantics.

(xii) In the light of the ruling of the nine­ Judge Bench in NDMC v. State of Punjab (1997) 7 SCC 339, it is clear as noon day that by no stretch of imagination, NCT of Delhi can be accorded the status of a State under our present constitutional scheme. The status of NCT of Delhi is sui generis, a class apart, and the status of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi is not that of a Governor of a State, rather he remains an Administrator, in a limited sense, working with the designation of Lieutenant Governor.

(xiii) With the insertion of Article 239AA by virtue of the Sixty ­ninth Amendment, the Parliament envisaged a representative form of Government for the NCT of Delhi. The said provision intends to provide for the Capital a directly elected Legislative Assembly which shall have legislative powers over matters falling within the State List and the Concurrent List, barring those excepted, and a mandate upon the Lieutenant Governor to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers except when he decides to refer the matter to the President for final decision.

(xiv) The interpretative dissection of Article 239AA (3) (a) reveals that the Parliament has the power to make laws for the National Capital Territory of Delhi with respect to any matters enumerated in the State List and the Concurrent List. At the same time, the Legislative Assembly of Delhi also has the power to make laws over all those subjects which figure in the Concurrent List and all, but three excluded subjects, in the State List.

(xv) A conjoint reading of clauses (3)(a) and (4) of Article 239AA divulges that the executive power of the Government of NCTD is co­extensive with the legislative power of the Delhi Legislative Assembly and, accordingly, the executive power of the Council of Ministers of Delhi spans over all subjects in the Concurrent List and all, but three excluded subjects, in the State List. However, if the Parliament makes law in respect of certain subjects falling in the State List or the Concurrent List, the executive action of the State must conform to the law made by the Parliament.

(xvi) As a natural corollary, the Union of India has exclusive executive power with respect to the NCT of Delhi relating to the three matters in the State List in respect of which the power of the Delhi Legislative Assembly has been excluded. In respect of other matters, the executive power is to be exercised by the Government of NCT of Delhi. This, however, is subject to the proviso to Article 239AA(4) of the Constitution. Such an interpretation would be in consonance with the concepts of pragmatic federalism and federal balance by giving the Government of NCT of Delhi some required degree of independence subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution.

(xvii) The meaning of ‘aid and advise’ employed in Article 239AA(4) has to be construed to mean that the Lieutenant Governor of NCT of Delhi is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers and this position holds true so long as the Lieutenant Governor does not exercise his power under the proviso to clause (4) of Article 239AA. The Lieutenant Governor has not been entrusted with any independent decision­making power. He has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of Council of Ministers or he is bound to implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him.

(xviii) The words “any matter” employed in the proviso to clause (4) of Article 239AA cannot be inferred to mean “every matter”. The power of the Lieutenant Governor under the said proviso represents the exception and not the general rule which has to be exercised in exceptional circumstances by the Lieutenant Governor keeping in mind the standards of constitutional trust and morality, the principle of collaborative federalism and constitutional balance, the concept of constitutional governance and objectivity and the nurtured and cultivated idea of respect for a representative government. The Lieutenant Governor should not act in a mechanical manner without due application of mind so as to refer every decision of the Council of Ministers to the President.

(xix) The difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and the Council of Ministers should have a sound rationale and there should not be exposition of the phenomenon of an obstructionist but reflection of the philosophy of affirmative constructionism and profound sagacity and judiciousness.

(xx) The Transaction of Business Rules, 1993 stipulates the procedure to be followed by the Lieutenant Governor in case of difference between him and his Ministers. The Lieutenant Governor and the Council of Ministers must attempt to settle any point of difference by way of discussion and dialogue. By contemplating such a procedure, the TBR, 1993 suggest that the Lieutenant Governor must work harmoniously with his Ministers and must not seek to resist them every step of the way. The need for harmonious resolution by discussion is recognized especially to sustain the representative form of governance as has been contemplated by the insertion of Article 239AA.

(xxi) The scheme that has been conceptualized by the insertion of Articles 239AA and 239AB read with the provisions of the GNCTD Act, 1991 and the corresponding TBR, 1993 indicates that the Lieutenant Governor, being the Administrative head, shall be kept informed with respect to all the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers. The terminology “send a copy thereof to the Lieutenant Governor”, “forwarded to the Lieutenant Governor”, “submitted to the Lieutenant Governor” and “cause to be furnished to the Lieutenant Governor” employed in the said rules leads to the only possible conclusion that the decisions of the Council of Ministers must be communicated to the Lieutenant Governor but this does not mean that the concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor is required. The said communication is imperative so as to keep him apprised in order to enable him to exercise the power conferred upon him under Article 239AA(4) and the proviso thereof.

(xxii) The authorities in power should constantly remind themselves that they are constitutional functionaries and they have the responsibility to ensure that the fundamental purpose of administration is the welfare of the people in an ethical manner. There is requirement of discussion and deliberation. The fine nuances are to be dwelled upon with mutual respect. Neither of the authorities should feel that they have been lionized. They should feel that they are serving the constitutional norms, values and concepts.

(xxiii) Fulfillment of constitutional idealism ostracizing anything that is not permissible by the language of the provisions of the Constitution and showing veneration to its sense, spirit and silence is constitutional renaissance. It has to be remembered that our Constitution is a constructive one. There is no room for absolutism. There is no space for anarchy. Sometimes it is argued, though in a different context, that one can be a “rational anarchist”, but the said term has no entry in the field of constitutional governance and rule of law. The constitutional functionaries are expected to cultivate the understanding of constitutional renaissance by realization of their constitutional responsibility and sincere acceptance of the summon to be obeisant to the constitutional conscience with a sense of reawakening to the vision of the great living document so as to enable true blossoming of the constitutional ideals. The Lieutenant Governor and the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister are to constantly remain alive to this idealism. [Government of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 661, decided on 04-07-2018]