NEW DELHI: The uncertainty over government formation in Delhi may come to an end soon with the Supreme Court putting the issue on fast track even as the President accepted an LG proposal that BJP be asked to form the government.
A five-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu, however, while deciding to hear on Thursday the petition filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seeking dissolution of the Assembly, slammed the Centre and the Lt Governor over the five-month delay in taking a decision on government formation.
During the hearing today the Centre disclosed that the President has given his consent to Lt Governor Najeeb Jung's proposal to invite BJP to form government.
Rapping the Centre and the LG over the delay, the court said that in a democracy President's Rule cannot go on forever and questioned why the authorities failed to act expeditiously.
The bench also asked why the Centre always comes out with one statement or another just a day before the matter is taken up for hearing by it.
"Just before matter is taken up for hearing, you make a statement. Why was it not decided earlier? How long can you go on like this?" the bench said, adding that LG should have taken the decision at the earliest.
"We can't shrug our responsibility and we will hear the case on merit," the bench said, adding, "in a democratic polity people have right to have government and not to be ruled by a governor."
It said that such issues take time and that is why it adjourned the case many times to facilitate the LG to take a decision but nothing has been done.
Referring to the President's letter which was placed before the bench, the apex court said that "this exercise should have been done much earlier".
At the moment, a party needs the support of 34 MLAs for a simple majority in a House of 70 with three vacancies which are to be filled in bye elections late next month.
BJP had emerged the single largest party after the Assembly polls in December last year with 31 seats apart from the support of ally Akali Dal's one MLA in the 70-member House. But its numbers have now come down to 28 after three of its legislators--Harsh Vardhan, Ramesh Bidhuri and Pervesh Verma--were elected to Lok Sabha.
After falling short of majority by four seats after the elections last year, BJP 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.
AAP with 28 MLAs had formed the government with the support of eight Congress MLAs. AAP's strength has also come down to 27 after expulsion of party MLA Vinod Kumar Binny.
During the last hearing, the Centre had told the apex court that its stand on government formation in Delhi will only be known after Diwali as the LG's proposal to the President seeking his response on inviting single-largest party BJP was still under consideration.
The court was hearing a plea filed by AAP seeking dissolution of the Assembly and had earlier asked the Centre what steps it had taken to explore the possibility of government formation.
In his letter to the President, the LG had referred to the resignation of the AAP government on February 14, saying that it was not in "the interest of public to hold elections in such a short time after the elections of December 2013".
"In accordance with the constitutional convention and also keeping in mind the law laid down by the Supreme Court that every effort must be made to form a popular government before recommending dissolution, I shall be grateful if the
Hon'ble President of India grants approval to invite BJP, that is even today the single largest party in the legislature to seek their interest in forming the government (MLA strength of all parties as well as independents is attached).
"Should the BJP agree, I would ask them to demonstrate their strength to form a stable government on the floor of the house within a stipulated time frame, possibly one week.
"Future course of action can be determined after taking into the account the response of the BJP," the letter had said.
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.