Contact Form

Sticky Contact Form

Article 239AA Demystified: Understanding Its Significance and the Supreme Court's Interpretation in the Delhi Services Verdict

By - King Stubb & Kasiva on May 30, 2023

The Indian Constitution, comprising 448 articles and 25 parts, plays a crucial role in governing the country. Within this framework, Article 239AA holds particular significance as it pertains to the special provisions granted to the union territory of Delhi. Recently, the interpretation of this article has sparked debates and confusion. In this blog post, we delve into the essence of Article 239AA and examine the Supreme Court's ruling on its application in the Delhi Services Verdict. Gain a comprehensive understanding of this constitutional provision and its implications by reading further.

Understanding Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution: Granting Special Status to Delhi

Article 239 of the Indian Constitution addresses the administration of Union Territories. In a significant amendment, the 69th Amendment Act of 1991 introduced Article 239AA, granting a unique status and powers to the Union territory of Delhi. This amendment stemmed from the recommendations put forth by the S. Balakrishnan committee in 1987. In this blog post, we delve into the intricacies of Article 239AA, exploring the special provisions and powers conferred upon Delhi. Gain a comprehensive understanding of this constitutional article and its implications by reading further.

  • Renaming: The Union Territory of Delhi is known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD) since the commencement of the 69th Amendment Act, 1991.
  • Administrator: The Lieutenant Governor, appointed under Article 239 of the Constitution, acts as the administrator of Delhi.
  • Legislative Assembly: There is a Legislative Assembly for the National Capital Territory, with members elected directly from territorial regions within Delhi to fill its seats. Parliament enacts a law determining various aspects of the Legislative Assembly, including the number of seats, reservation for Scheduled Castes, territorial constituencies, and other related matters.
  • Legislative Powers: The Legislative Assembly has the authority to make laws for Delhi on matters listed in the State List or the Concurrent List, except for certain specified matters related to the State List and part of Entries 64, 65, and 66. Such legislative powers are subject to the provisions of the Constitution.
  • Primacy of Parliament: In case of conflict between laws passed by the Legislative Assembly and those passed by Parliament on the same subject, the law passed by Parliament, or any earlier law not passed by the Legislative Assembly prevails. However, a law passed by the Legislative Assembly, reserved for the President's consideration and approved, shall take precedence in the National Capital Territory.
  • Council of Ministers: A Council of Ministers, comprising no more than 10% of the Legislative Assembly members, is formed, with the Chief Minister as its head. The Chief Minister assists and advises the Lieutenant Governor in matters within the authority of the Legislative Assembly, except those requiring the Lieutenant Governor's discretionary action.
  • Conflict Resolution: In case of a difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and the Ministers, the matter is referred to the President for a decision, and the Lieutenant Governor acts accordingly. However, the Lieutenant Governor retains authority in urgent matters that require immediate action.
  • Appointment of Ministers: The President appoints the Chief Minister, and additional Ministers are appointed based on the Chief Minister's recommendations, serving at the President's pleasure.
  • Accountability: The Council of Ministers is collectively accountable to the Legislative Assembly.
  • Application of Article 239B: Provisions of Article 239B apply, as far as possible, to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Delhi, similar to the Administrator and Legislature of the Union territory of Puducherry.

Decoding the Issue Surrounding Article 239AA: The Control Over "Services" in Delhi's National Capital Territory

One of the primary concerns revolved around determining the jurisdiction and control over "services" in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The ambiguity arose regarding whether the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) or the lieutenant governor, acting on behalf of the Union Government, would exercise control over these crucial services. This issue sparked debates and raised questions about the interpretation and implementation of Article 239AA in relation to the governance of Delhi.

Unraveling the Background of the Case Regarding Article 239AA

The controversy surrounding Article 239AA originated from a notification issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on May 21, 2015. The notification stated that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of NCTD would exercise authority over "public order," "police," and "land" to the extent delegated by the President. It also allowed the LG to seek the Chief Minister's opinion and advice at his discretion.

The notification excluded "Services" from the jurisdiction of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), despite it being included in Entry 41 of the State List in the Constitution's Seventh Schedule. The Delhi High Court ruled that matters related to "Services" fell outside the purview of the Legislative Assembly of NCT of Delhi. However, a two-judge Supreme Court panel recognized the legal difficulty in interpreting Article 239AA and referred the matter to a Constitution Bench.

In the 2018 Constitution Bench decision[1], it was determined that the NCT of Delhi, unlike other Union Territories, possesses a representative form of government. The executive authority of the NCTD extends to subjects within its legislative authority, except those expressly prohibited. The phrase "in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union Territories" was interpreted as inclusive rather than exclusive, allowing the Legislative Assembly of Delhi to exercise its legislative power.

In 2019, a split decision by Justice Ashok Bhushan stated that the majority opinion judges of the 2018 Constitution Bench did not interpret the phrase "in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union Territories."

This intricate legal background set the stage for the subsequent deliberations and interpretations surrounding Article 239AA.

Also Read:- INR 2000 Denomination Banknotes – Withdrawal From Circulation: Will Continue As Legal Tender

Interpreting Article 239AA: Supreme Court Analysis

In a significant case called Government of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India2, the Supreme Court provided its interpretation of Article 239AA to resolve the power conflict between the Delhi Government and the Union of India[2]. The unanimous decision was reached on May 11, 2023, by a five-member bench.

The Court disagreed with Justice Bhushan's opinion in the 2019 split verdict and emphasized that the 2018 Constitution Bench judgment granted the NCT of Delhi (NCTD) wide executive and co-extensive legislative powers, except for explicitly excluded issues. It clarified that the phrase "in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union Territories" does not restrict NCTD's legislative authority.

  • According to the Court, Article 239-AA(3)(a) grants NCTD legislative authority but not over every entry in List II. Several protections are outlined in Article 239-AA(3) to safeguard the Union's interests. These include the exclusion of specific entries, the Parliament's authority to enact laws for Union Territories, and the precedence of parliamentary laws over conflicting laws passed by the Legislative Assembly of NCTD.
  • The Court determined that Article 239-AA(3) strikes a balance between NCTD's interests and those of the Union. It clarified that not every entry in the State List falls under NCTD's exclusive legislative power, and its authority is confined within the defined constitutional framework.
  • The Court clarified that NCTD's Legislative Assembly, although not a full-fledged state, has the legal power to pass laws on subjects included in the State List and Concurrent List. The Legislative Assembly reflects the principle of representative democracy, with members elected by the people of Delhi.
  • The Court concluded that the phrase "in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union Territories" should not further restrict NCTD's ability to enact laws related to the State List or Concurrent List beyond what is already expressly covered.
  • The Court affirmed that NCTD has a democratically elected administration accountable to its residents, and its Legislative Assembly operates within the constitutional framework of Article 239-AA(3), resembling states in many ways despite its limitations.
  • Combining the readings of Articles 239-AA, 73, and 162, the Court clarified that the Union's executive power over concurrent list subjects is limited to prevent the Union from taking over state governance. This limitation applies to issues falling under both the Union and GNCTD's legislative authorities.
  • The Court confirmed that all topics on the State List and Concurrent List, except the prohibited items, fall within NCTD's legislative authority under Article 239-AA(3)(a).
  • Regarding "services" mentioned in Entry 41 of the State List, the Court determined that NCTD's legislative and executive authority covers services such as Indian Administrative Services or Joint Cadre Services, crucial for the region's management. However, NCTD's authority does not extend to services related to "public order," "police," or "land."
  • The Court reaffirmed that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) is bound by the aid and advice of NCTD's Council of Ministers concerning matters falling under NCTD's legislative purview. References to the LG in applicable rules related to services (excluding those connected to "public order," "police," and "land") shall indicate the LG acting on behalf of GNCTD.


Article 239AA forms the basis for the legislative powers exercised by the Parliament and the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory of Delhi. The state government has the authority to create legislation concerning state public services and the state public service commission, as stated in Entry 41 of List II (State List). However, the potential legal recourse available to the Delhi government in case the Union government introduces an ordinance excluding "Services" from NCTD's scope or makes changes to the listed matters remains uncertain. Although such a law would likely be subject to court review, the specific principles, reasons, or requirements guiding this review are yet to be determined.


What is Article 239AA?

Article 239AA is a provision in the Indian Constitution that provides a special status to the Union Territory of Delhi, granting it a Legislative Assembly and a council of ministers

What was the conflict between the Delhi government and the Union of India?

The conflict arose regarding the control and jurisdiction over "services" in Delhi's National Capital Territory, specifically whether it falls under the authority of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) or the Lieutenant Governor (LG) acting on behalf of the Union Government.

Which entries in the State List are excluded from the Delhi government's legislative purview?

The Delhi government does not have the authority to pass legislation related to State List entries 64, 65, and 66, as well as entries 1 (Public order), 2 (Police), and 18 (Land). These exclusions are specified under Article 239AA(3)(a).

[1] (2018) 8 SCC 501

[2]2023 SCC OnLine SC 606

King Stubb & Kasiva,
Advocates & Attorneys

Click Here to Get in Touch

New Delhi | Mumbai | Bangalore | Chennai | Hyderabad | Mangalore | Pune | Kochi | Kolkata
Tel: +91 11 41032969 | Email:

Liked this Article ?

Join our list to receive more such updates

Subscription Form

By entering the email address you agree to our Privacy Policy.

King Stubb & Kasiva

Offices In - New Delhi | Bangalore | Mumbai
Chennai | Hyderabad | Kochi | Pune | Mangalore

Subscription Form