The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Centre's response to Aam Aadmi Party's petition challenging imposition of President's rule in Delhi, which the petitioner alleged was being used as a shield to protect corrupt deals of the previous Congress government in the national capital for the last 15 years.
A bench of Justices R M Lodha and Dipak Misra agreed to entertain AAP's petition after senior advocate Fali S Nariman said the Centre had no option but to dissolve the assembly and recommend fresh elections in the aftermath of AAP government's resignation and the refusal of BJP, the single largest party in the assembly, to form government.
But it decided to adjudicate only the constitutional issue — validity of assembly being kept under suspended animation and imposition of President's rule — and ensured that the hearings on the petition did not serve as a platform for AAP to score political brownie points against rivals Congress and BJP.
The court refused to issue notice to BJP and Congress, which had supported AAP to form government in Delhi for 49 days. It asked the Centre to respond to AAP's petition in two weeks.
"We do not want a political debate. We do not want it to be a political contest. It is purely a constitutional issue. The Centre, which imposed President's rule, will explain the rationale behind the decision. The Congress and the BJP are not required to respond to the petition. If they want to become parties, let them make an application and we will consider it," the bench said.
Though Nariman agreed, advocate Prashant Bhushan said several allegations about corruption had been made against the political parties and AAP thought it would be fair to make them parties in the petition to enable them to respond to it.
Nariman said, "We did not want to carry on hearing on the petition behind their backs. It is BJP which can tell the court whether they want to form the government after the AAP government resigned."
He said AAP had 27 members and BJP 32 in the 70-member assembly. If two parties, with a cumulative strength of 59 members, decide not to form the government, could there be any option for the Centre or the lieutenant governor except ordering fresh elections, Nariman asked.
The bench asked, "If no party is willing to form government after an election, is it mandatory for the governor to dissolve the House immediately and recommend fresh elections? Should he not wait for and explore the possibility of change of mind among political parties?"
Justices Lodha and Misra referred to the apex court's 2006 judgment quashing the Centre's decision to impose President's rule in Bihar and said the Centre was answerable to the court and must explain the reasons which weighed with it to decide imposition of President's rule.
AAP said it enjoyed majority in the House at the time it decided to quit and had advised dissolution of the assembly.
"By imposing President's rule, the authorities have deprived the citizens of Delhi their democratic right to have an elected popular government. The apparent motive behind not dissolving the Delhi legislative assembly and holding fresh election is to allow a political party (Congress), which had badly lost the Delhi legislative assembly elections held in December 2013 and of which several important leaders, including ministers in central government and the former chief minister, are facing corruption charges, to govern the NCT of Delhi indirectly," it said.