The Aam Aadmi Party put up a brave face following the Supreme Court's refusal on Friday to stay the Delhi High Court's verdict on the dispute between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung. The L-G would continue to be in-charge of administrative matters in Delhi, the apex court said.
The Aam Aadmi Party led by Kejriwal had called the L-G an "employee of the central government" in "a master-servant relationship."
"No stay... we will fix the matters for final hearing on November 15," the bench, comprising Justices AK Sikri and NV Ramana, told senior lawyers KK Venugopal and Gopal Subramanium representing AAP.
However, AAP Delhi Convenor Dilip Pandey said that "terming it (the decision) as a setback would be wrong as Supreme Court has listed the matter for further hearing and also said that it may consider sending the petitions to a larger bench. The party has full faith on the judicial proceedings," the Press Trust of India reported.
The bench also expressed its unwillingness to review circulars and petitions issued by the L-G last month saying that "you challenge those orders separately. Every day, there would be one order or another... we cannot be saying which one is right and which one is not in the course of these proceedings. We will only take note of whatever has been brought on record by you in these special leave petitions."
The apex court agreed to hear a bunch of seven petitions filed by the AAP government and has sought a response from the Centre that had urged the Court to dismiss the petitions because they were "defective".
However, the bench disagreed with preliminary objections raised by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who represented the Centre, to dismiss the appeals on the grounds that the pleas were supported by the affidavit of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia instead of a Chief Secretary or a secretary.
"The Deputy CM (Manish Sisodia) is not a competent person to swear these affidavits and even if it is assumed for a minute that he is competent, they are also defective since this person has verified them saying he has personal knowledge, information and belief about the contents of the petitions," Rohatgi said.
AAP's lawyer Subramaniam also complained that the L-G had set up a panel to review the decisions taken by the Delhi government without his permission.
"There cannot be a committee finding fault with the previous decisions of the elected government... on the basis of the judgment of the high court, legitimacy cannot be given to a committee to look into them. All files are with the L-G now. No such inquiry can go on when the matter is being heard by this court," Subramanium told the bench, which refused to interfere.
However, Rohatgi said that since Delhi is a Union Territory, AAP does not have the right to file petitions, as decided during the 'NDMC versus State of Punjab' case.
When senior lawyer Venugopal requested that the matter be referred to a larger bench, the two-judge bench said that they would take a call on that at the next hearing. The Court has also asked the Centre to file a counter affidavit within a month, following which AAP would get a couple of weeks to respond to the affidavit.
Since the AAP government assumed power, Kejriwal has been involved in a dispute with Jung over who would be the in-charge of administrative affairs of the Delhi government — the CM or the L-G. L-G Jung had reversed several decisions taken by the AAP government, saying that they did not have the authority to take them in the first place.