SC permits Union to file submissions to seek reference of Delhi-Centre power row to larger bench

12:43 PM Jan 18, 2023 | PTI |

The Supreme Court on Wednesday permitted the Central government to file additional submissions seeking reference of the Delhi-Centre power dispute to a larger bench of nine judges.


As a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud commenced hearing on the vexatious Centre-Delhi government row over control of services, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, sought the nod to file an additional note for reference of the matter to a larger bench.

“Please permit me to file a two-page note…My note will also contain a prayer for reference (of the case to a larger bench),” the law officer said.

“The issue of reference was never argued. We are in rejoinder (hearing rejoinder submissions). Mr Singhvi (AM Singhvi for Delhi government) would have finished yesterday. How can you argue reference now,” the CJI observed.

The contours of federalism between the Centre and the union territory needed a “re-look”, Mehta said, adding the reference to a larger bench was needed Singhvi opposed the submissions of the solicitor general, saying “this matter had come before a division bench at least 10 times over a year.” He said the review of the 2018 judgement in the Delhi-Centre case is being sought now and this is “hugely dilatory”.


“It can be anything but dilatory. We are dealing with the capital of the nation. My friend (Singhvi) is in tremendous hurry, we may not be remembered as handing over the capital to complete anarchy,” the law officer responded.

“This is a question of law. You (solicitor general) can circulate a note,” said the bench which also comprised justices M R Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and P S Narasimha.

Singhvi then commenced his rejoinder submissions which are likely to be concluded during the day.

Earlier also, the Centre had filed an interim application seeking reference to a larger bench of nine or more judges in the Delhi-Centre power dispute.

The application filed by the Centre had said that it is seeking reference of appeal to a larger bench of this court for a “holistic interpretation” of Article 239AA of the Constitution, which is Central to the determination of issues involved herein.

“It is submitted that the issue pertains to the administration of India’s capital and, therefore can doubtlessly be said to be a question of constitutional interpretation as narrated in detail hereunder, the Constitution Bench could not be assisted on some of the vital issues going to the root of the matter as a result of which a judicial interpretation is given which may defeat the very object and intent of special provisions made for national capital territory of Delhi,” it had said.

The plea had said that the top court has a very wide jurisdiction and no technicality comes in the way of this court doing substantial justice between the parties more particularly when the party on the one side is the Union of India and the issue involved concerns administration of its national capital.

The Centre had said, “It is submitted that the judgement of the Constitution Bench (2018 verdict) has given rise to an anomaly wherein though the Parliament undeniably enjoys the legislative supremacy, yet the council of ministers of GNCTD would now enjoy the executive supremacy, which effectively means that as regards the executive powers, Delhi despite being a Union territory and not a full fledged state, has been elevated to the status of a State, which is in teeth of the nine-judge bench verdict (1997 judgement)…”.

“In view of Article 239AA read with the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, Delhi continues to be Union territory, however with a legislature. This fact is also recognised and held by a bench of nine judges of this court in NDMC versus state of Punjab (1997 verdict),” it had said.


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