No physical documents to be submitted during Constitution bench hearing on Delhi-Centre dispute: SC

Justice DY Chandrachud-led five-judge Constitution bench that took up the matter Wednesday, asked the rival sides not to submit any document in the court.

“We will keep this a completely green bench so there would be no papers,” Justice Chandrachud told the parties, adding “please don’t carry any paper”.

The bench also comprising Justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha said that the Information Technology cell of the court had agreed to train seniors on Saturdays on the use of technology.

Justice Chandrachud asked the parties to let the court know if anyone needed training so that it can be organised.

As a counsel conveyed his dilemma in using technology, Justice MR Shah remarked, “We also got training. Some day you have to start.”

Reassuring the counsel, Justice Chandrachud added: “If you can argue in court, you can easily adapt to this. Technology is for dummies.”

The court said it will list the matter on September 27 for directions and see whether the hearing can commence in October.

The court noted in its order that all counsel have agreed that proceedings shall be held in a paperless environment and no hard copy of documents will be carried. The bench also directed the Registry to scan all paper books and make them available to the two sides.

The proceedings have their genesis in the Delhi High Court judgement of August 4, 2017, whereby it held that for the purposes of administration of National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, the Lieutenant Governor was not bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers in every matter.

On appeal, the Supreme Court on February 15, 2017, referred the matter to decide on the interpretation of Article 239AA, which gives special status to Delhi.

By a majority decision on July 4, 2018, a Constitution bench of the apex court had upheld the respective powers of the state assembly and Parliament. It said that while the Council of Ministers must communicate all decisions to LG, this does not mean that LG’s concurrence is required. In case of difference of opinion, the LG can refer it to the President for a decision. The LG has no independent decision-making power but has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers or is bound to implement the decision of the President on a reference being made, it said.

Subsequently in 2019, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court while dealing with some individual issues arising from the power tussle between the Centre and the NCT government, ruled that the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Delhi government cannot investigate corruption cases against central government officials, and that the power to appoint commissions under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, would be vested with the Centre and not the Delhi government.

In this regard, the two-judge bench upheld two notifications issued by the Centre on July 23, 2014, and May 21, 2015, which had the effect of excluding the jurisdiction of Delhi government’s Anti-Corruption Branch from probing offences committed by Union government officials and limiting it to employees of the Delhi government. The judges, however, differed on who should have control over the administrative services.

This was challenged again in the Supreme Court, where the Centre contended that the two judges could not take a decision on the question as the 2018 Constitution bench judgement had not interpreted the expression “insofar as any such matter as applicable to Union Territories” appearing in Article 239AA. It urged the apex court to refer the matter to a five-judge Constitution bench so that the question of law can be settled before the dispute over who has control over services can be looked into. The NCT government opposed this saying there was already a Constitution bench decision in the matter.

Deciding this, the apex court on May 6 this year referred the question to a Constitution bench. It agreed with the Centre’s contention that the 2018 Constitution Bench had not dealt with one aspect having a bearing on the dispute over services and said this limited question will be looked into.

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