The Delhi Government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the National Green Tribunal’s decision to appoint the Lieutenant Governor (LG) as the Chairman of the High-Level Committee on Yamuna. The Delhi Government has urged the top court that the NGT order violates the Constitutional scheme of governance in Delhi as well as the 2018 and 2023 orders of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.
Through its order dated 9.01.2023, the NGT had established this committee, comprising various authorities in Delhi, to address the issue of Yamuna River pollution, with the LG, a mere figurehead of the state, as its Chairman.
“In its petition, the Delhi Government has recognised the need for interdepartmental coordination to address Yamuna’s pollution and implement remedial measures, but it has strongly objected to the executive powers granted to the LG through the NGT’s order. These powers encroach upon areas exclusively under the competence of the elected government of Delhi,’ “ the AAP government said in a statement.
In its appeal, the Delhi Government contended that according to the administrative structure in Delhi and the provisions of Article 239AA of the Constitution, the LG serves as a nominal figurehead, except in matters pertaining to land, public order, and police, where the LG exercises powers delegated by the Constitution. The Delhi government acknowledged the importance of a coordinated approach, but it asserted that the language used in the NGT order sidelines the elected government. The plea explains that granting executive powers to an authority that lacks the constitutional mandate to possess them undermines the elected government’s rightful jurisdiction.
“The Delhi Government further contended that the NGT’s proposed remedial measures, such as utilising treated water for agriculture, horticulture, or industrial purposes, preventing waste discharge and dumping, protecting floodplain zones, maintaining dredging flow, implementing plantations, and desilting drains, require budgetary allocations that are approved by the legislative assembly,” it said.
Consequently, the role of the elected government becomes crucial in overseeing these measures. The appeal points out that the elected government is committed to addressing the issue of making Yamuna a clean river free from pollutants and allocating the necessary funds. However, the current scheme outlined in the NGT order establishes a committee led by an unelected figurehead, sidelining the elected and accountable government of NCTD. While an inter-agency committee is desirable for coordination purposes, it should be overseen by the elected head of government, the Chief Minister in this case, the plea says.
The committee includes the Chief Secretary of Delhi, Secretaries of the Irrigation, Forest and Environment, Agriculture, and Finance Departments of the Delhi Government, the Chief Executive Officer of Delhi Jal Board, the Vice Chairman of the Delhi Development Authority, a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, the Director-General of Forests or his nominee from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC), a representative from the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) or MoEF & CC, the Director-General of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and the Chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The Delhi Government also highlighted that a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in its judgement in the case of State (NCT of Delhi) v. Union of India (2018) 8 SCC 501, established that the elected government of NCT of Delhi possesses exclusive executive powers over all subjects in the State and Concurrent List, with the exception of “public order,” “police,” and “land.”