New Delhi, Sep 9 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Union government to let it know by October 10 what it is doing about forming a government in Delhi, where the assembly has been kept in suspended animation since February this year.
A five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Justice H.L. Dattu, said it is not going to keep this matter pending for long, and asked the Centre to inform it about the decision to be taken by the President of India on the letter written by Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor.
”What is the possible time by which his Excellency would take a decision?” the bench asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P.S. Narsimha, who was appearing for the Centre.
The ASG had referred to the letter written by Lt Gov Najeeb Jung on September 4 to the President seeking to explore the possibility of government formation in Delhi.
President’s rule was imposed in Delhi on February 17 when no party staked a claim to form the government after the Aam Aadmi Party government headed by Arvind Kejriwal resigned.
In his letter to the President, the LG had sought permission to call the single largest party (currently the Bharatiya Janata Party) to take a shot at power though it is well short of majority in the Assembly.
Senior advocate Fali S. Nariman and advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for AAP, raised the issue of horse-trading by BJP for getting the numbers to form the government in Delhi.
The bench, however, said that it would not take on record the additional affidavit filed on this issue by the AAP and asked Nariman to wait till October 10.
Referring to the LG’s letter to the President, the ASG said that the political process has started again to explore the possibility of government formation in the national capital and four more weeks be granted for the same.
On August 5, the apex court had given five weeks’ time to the Centre to take a decision on dissolution of the Delhi Assembly “one way or another”, questioning it for continuing to keep the House in suspended animation when no party was coming forward to form the government.
The bench had also asked why the members of the legislative assembly should be paid from taxpayers’ money for sitting idle when the Assembly had been kept in suspended animation.
On the petition filed by AAP seeking dissolution of the Assembly, the bench had asked the Centre what steps it has taken to explore the possibility of government formation during the last five months.
It had, however, turned down the plea of the AAP that the apex court should pass an order so that elections in Delhi are held along with that of four other states later this year.
The apex court said it is for the appropriate authority to take a decision.
The petition filed by AAP had sought a direction to the LG to dissolve the Assembly and hold fresh polls.
It had challenged the decision to impose President’s rule in Delhi on the recommendation of the LG alleging that it was done to protect Congress leaders and former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit from corruption charges.
The petition had said the order to impose President’s rule was “illegal, arbitrary and in violation” of Article 14 of the Constitution as after the resignation of Kejriwal neither BJP nor Congress were in a position to form the government and they had already expressed their unwillingness in that regard.
It had further raised constitutional questions to keep the Assembly under suspended animation by ignoring the categorical recommendation of the majority government of the NCT of Delhi for dissolving the House.
The BJP had emerged the single-largest party after the Assembly polls in December last year with 32 seats including ally Akali Dal’s one MLA in the 70-member House.
The BJP fell four seats short of a simple majority and had refused to form the government, saying it did not have the numbers and will not resort to any “unfair means” to take the reins.
The AAP with 28 MLAs had later formed the government with support of eight Congress MLAs. AAP’s strength has also come down to 27 after expulsion of party MLA Vinod Kumar Binny.
The BJP’s number came down to 28 in the House in May after three of its legislators–Harsh Vardhan, Ramesh Bidhuri and Pervesh Verma–were elected to the Lok Sabha. With the resignation of three MLAs, the strength of the Assembly also went down to 67.