SC Rules NCT of Delhi is not State, Occupies a Special Status

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July 04, 2018

Case name: Government of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India

Date of Judgment: July 04, 2018

In a landmark judgment pronounced by Five Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court today, the Court has ruled that the NCT of Delhi is not a State and occupies a special status under the Constitution. In this case, the Apex Court has also deliberated on the powers of the Lieutenant Governor (LG) and the extent of power that can be exercised by the LG in matters to be decided by the Delhi Government.

One of the broad issue that fell for consideration by the Apex Court was whether   the   inhabitants   or voters of NCT Delhi remain where they were prior to the special status conferred in the Union Territory?

The Appellant argued that the NCT of Delhi occupied a   unique position in the Constitutional Scheme by virtue of the insertion of Articles 239AA and 239AB and the consequent enactment of 1991 Act that has shaped the NCT of Delhi into a constitutional hybrid and led Delhi to acquire certain special characteristics solely attributed to full-­fledged States under the Constitution.

The Respondent i.e. Union of India in the case has contended that although the insertion of Article 239AA envisages the Constitution of Legislative   Assembly   for   the   National   Capital   Territory   of Delhi,   yet   the   President   shall   remain   its   Executive   head, acting through the LG.

Bench’s Verdict

In its 535 page long verdict, the Supreme Court inter alia made the following key observations in the case:

  • The   Parliament   has   power   to   make   laws   for   NCTD   in respect of any of the matters enumerated in the State List and Concurrent List. The Legislative Assembly of NCTD has also the legislative power with respect to matters enumerated in the State List (except excepted entries) and in the Concurrent List.
  • The “aid and advice” given by Council of Ministers as   referred   to   in   sub­ clause (4) of Article 239AA is binding on the LG unless he decides to exercise his power given in proviso to sub clause (2) of Article 239AA.
  • The power given in proviso to sub ­clause (4) to LG to be exercised in a routine manner rather it is to be exercised by the LG on valid reasons after due consideration, when it becomes necessary to safeguard the interest of the Union Territory.
  • The word ‘State’ as occurring in proviso to Article 73 after the 7th Constitution Amendment cannot be read as including Union Territory. Reading   the   word   ‘Union Territory’ within the word ‘State’ in proviso to Article 73 shall not be in consonance with the Scheme of Part VIII (Union Territories) of the Constitution.

The entire judgment can be accessed here.