Centre vs Delhi Govt: SC Bench split on ‘Services’; refers to larger Bench; L-G gets ACB, power to setup Inquiry

Supreme Court

In a blow to the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, The Top Court on Thursday held the lieutenant governor (L-G) has the power to set up an inquiry commission. However, it gave a split verdict on the issue of jurisdiction on control of “services” in the tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre and referred the matter to a larger bench.

A two-judge bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, however, agreed on their views on disputes pertaining to the anti-corruption branch, setting up of a commission of inquiry, control over electricity boards, land revenue matters and appointment of public prosecutors.

A division bench comprising justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, however, differed on whether the L-G or Delhi government has control over “services” which includes transfer and posting of bureaucrats in the national capital.

In the split verdict, Justice Bhushan held that the issue of ‘services’ was totally outside the purview of the Delhi government. In view of the difference of opinion, the judges decided that the matter is heard and decided by a larger bench.

Justice AK Sikri held transfers of posting of Joint Secretary &above officers are in the domain of LG while other officers fall under Delhi government, however, in case of difference of opinion, view of LG to prevail. The Court held that Anti Corruption Bureau to come under LG.

The bench unanimously held that the Centre/L-G has the power to set up an inquiry commission, a ruling which will allow the L-G to order an inquiry into corruption cases. The Bench added that the ACB will directly come under LG.

The Top Court Bench said The Electricity Board will come under the Delhi government, which is the appropriate government under the Electricity Act. The Delhi government will also have the power to appoint special public prosecutors, the bench said. The court said the Delhi government’s revenue the department will decide the minimum rates of agricultural land.

The apex court also upheld the Centre’s notification that its employees cannot be probed in corruption cases by ACB of Delhi government.

The AAP Delhi government and the LG have had several tussles over bureaucratic appointments, security issues, appointment and transfer of bureaucrats, governance in the national capital.

Earlier on November 1 last year, The apex court had reserved its verdict on pleas challenging notifications related to control over services, setting up of a commission of inquiry and the issue of jurisdiction over the Anticorruption Bureau.

The Verdict is seen as a setback for the Aam Aadmi Party administration led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as both the Centre and Delhi government at loggerheads on who has the jurisdiction to set up an inquiry commission.

Reacting on the Verdict, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, ‘If a government can’t even transfer its officers, how is it supposed to function? The party that has 67 seats doesn’t have the rights but the party who won 3 seats has those rights’.

Bhartiya Janta Party Spokesperson Sambit Patra slammed CM Arvind Kejriwal. He said,’We can’t believe a democratically elected CM can use this type of language for Supreme Court. He has always been an anarchist; tampering with rules while putting constitution at stake is his method’

Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit also took a slammed AAP Chief. She said, ‘Constitution has defined the power Delhi has, it’s not unlimited. Centre, Lt Governor, and Home Ministry handle a lot of things. So fighting is no solution, make changes if needed. Power doesn’t depend on the number of seats you have’

 

The Verdict came on a bunch of appeals filed by the Delhi government arising out of the August 4, 2016 verdict of the Delhi High Court, in which it was held that the L-G was the administrative head of Delhi.

Earlier By its July 4, 2018 verdict, a five-judge Constitution bench of the apex court had held that the council of ministers had supremacy over the L-G in governance, except in matters of police, land and public order as they fell under the purview of the L-G’s executive powers.

The top court had held that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state but also
trimmed the powers of the L-G. It said the LG has no “independent decision-making
power” and has to act on the aid and advice of the elected government.

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