PWD Minister Ms Atishi has expressed serious concern over a letter written by the Delhi LG to the Chief Secretary on 27th April 2023. In his letter, the LG has sought the seizure of records relating to PWD renovations in No. 6 Flag Staff House, Civil Lines, and their submission to the LG for review.
In a letter to the LG, Ms Atishi has stated that the LG’s communication is unconstitutional and undemocratic. As the PWD Minister of Delhi, Ms Atishi is primarily responsible for all Government business pertaining to the Public Works Department. She has asserted that the LG’s letter seeking the seizure of records and directing executive action is wholly outside the jurisdiction and authority of the office of the Lieutenant-Governor and bypasses the concerned Minister and the Council of Ministers, who are democratically responsible for the business of the Delhi Government. “As per Rule 4(2) of the Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules, 1993 (‘ToBR’), I find myself compelled by my constitutional duty to the people of Delhi in whose name I hold my mandate, to write to you regarding my concerns with the unconstitutional and undemocratic nature of your communication dated 27.04.2023,” the letter reads.
The PWD Minister has also highlighted how the letter written by the LG is politically motivated, saying, needless to say, that the insinuations and allegations made in the letter are baseless and devoid of merits and have been made for political reasons.
Further, Ms Atishi has cited the Constitution’s scheme for Delhi’s governance as incorporated in Article 239AA and explained by the Supreme Court in State (NCT of Delhi) v. Union of India & anr., (2018) 8 SCC 501. The Supreme Court had observed that the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, and he has not been entrusted with any independent decision-making power. While interpreting Article 239AAof the Constitution, the Supreme Court had categorically held as follows: “284.27 The meaning of “aid and advise” employed in Article 239-AA(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 239-AA. The Lieutenant Governor has not been entrusted with any independent decision-making power. He has to either act on the “aid and advice” of the Council of Ministers or he is bound to implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him.”
The PWD Minister has also noted that though the Lieutenant-Governor is empowered to seek information about decisions taken by the Council of Ministers under Rule 19(5) of the ToBR – information that the Ministers do not wish to deny – the Lieutenant-Governor has no power whatsoever to direct executive action of any kind. “Your letter dated 27.04.2023, by directing that certain records be seized and taken into protective custody and further directing the submission of a report on the same to your office, grossly oversteps the limited jurisdiction conferred on the Lieutenant-Governor’s office by the constitutional scheme. The communication dated 27.04.2023 does not exercise the power to seek information at all. Rather, it issues executive orders, a power not conferred on the Lieutenant-Governor’s office under the constitutional scheme at all, except when exercised on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers,” she wrote.
In conclusion, Ms Atishi has requested the LG to withdraw his communication dated and restore the scheme of governance intended by the Constitution for Delhi and its people. She has warned that the continual displacement of the constitutional scheme under Article 239AA will denude the democratic mandate of the people of Delhi. She has also expressed the hope that the elected government will not be forced to approach the court once again in view of the LG’s actions.