Judicial Vacancies Update | Day 9: Aam Aadmi Party to vacate land by June 2024

Judicial Vacancies in the Lower Courts

Judges: D.Y. Chandrachud CJI, J.B. Pardiwala J, Manoj Misra J

Today, the Supreme Court directed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to vacate a bungalow situated on the Rouse Avenue Complex by 15 June 2024. The land was allotted to the Delhi High Court for an expansion project of the Court. 

The issue over the Rouse Avenue area has been in controversy in the two preceding hearings. First, in December 2023, the Court directed the Land and Development Office (L&DO) to expeditiously hand over the Rouse Avenue Complex land to Delhi High Court. Later, in February 2024 the Supreme Court sternly directed the Chief Secretary of Government of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, the Secretary incharge of the Public Works Department, and the Finance Secretary to convene a meeting and provide a timeline for vacating the premises “encroached” by the Aam Aadmi Party. 

Today, the minutes of the meeting showed that the Law Minister suggested two months’ time to vacate. This was conditional upon the Supreme Court granting a further extension beyond the promised time period. Keeping in view of the upcoming general elections, the Court granted a period of three months. 

Senior Advocate (Dr.) Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the AAP, and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta stood in the other corner of the ring for the L&DO. Delhi High Court was the other party present today, and was represented by Senior Advocate K. Parameshwar. They made their stand clear—they had no interest in the “politics of the matter” and just wanted to focus on their expansion project.

Singhvi: Union government does not want AAP to “flourish” 

Singhvi argued that the AAP had requested the L&DO for new premises for relocation after the bungalow was to be returned to the Delhi High Court. L&DO suggested that they move to Badarpur, an area situated in South East Delhi. Singhvi insisted that as one of the only six national parties, the AAP deserved a place in Central Delhi. 

Mehta responded that AAP has to immediately vacate the premises and cannot place conditions. “He [Singhvi] cannot hold the Supreme Court and High Court to ransom by saying that now I [AAP] will not vacate unless I [AAP] am somewhere else.” Singhvi retorted that it was the Union who was holding the political party to ransom. 

Singhvi pointed out that relocating the offices of political parties close to the general elections would be detrimental for their campaign. He stated that the Union government has made it “clear” that it does not want AAP to “flourish and survive.” 

The Bench directed that AAP had time till June 2024 to vacate. They directed the L&DO to consider AAP’s application for alternate premises within four weeks. Mehta pushed the Court to note in its order that the application will be processed in “accordance with law” without considering the “national party” status of AAP. The Bench accepted his suggestion. 

Whose word is it anyway? 

After the Order was pronounced, the Court quickly descended into a heated debate about who had originally alleged that AAP had “encroached” the land. Parameshwar was eager to clarify that nowhere in their submissions had the Delhi High Court coloured the AAP as an “encroacher.” The parties first seemed convinced that it was the Chief Secretary of Delhi who used the term. Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee quickly refuted this, arguing that it wasn’t the Chief Secretary at all.

Singhvi pointed out that in the February 2024 order the Court had expressly noted that “an office of a political party has encroached on a portion of a plot at Rouse Avenue.” The word was in fact used, he said, but no one is “owning up” to it! Dictating the order today, the Chief Justice clarified that the High Court never termed AAP as encroachers and was only concerned with the completion of the project. 

Singhvi then argued that the land was allotted to the Government of NCT  Delhi in 1993, which was given to AAP in December 2015. Parameshwar highlighted that this was revoked in June 2017 in accordance with the Lieutenant Governor’s directions. In 2020, the land was provided to the Delhi High Court. Mehta struck again, stating that after 2017, the AAP was in fact, an “encroacher.” 

CJI Chandrachud observed that after 2017, Aam Aadmi Party “had no lawful right over” the land. 

Supreme Court: Provide alternate proposals for new recruits

In the previous hearing, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan had alerted the Court that the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited building was not suitable to accommodate additional courtrooms for new judicial recruits. Parameshwar reminded this issue to the Bench today. This prompted the Court to direct the Government of NCT to provide fresh alternate proposals within the next two to three weeks to facilitate the training of the new recruits.