Signalling the start of another tussle with the Narendra Modi government over who has authority over bureaucrats serving in the Delhi administration, the AAP government has asked Delhi Home Secretary Dharam Pal, who is the union government’s appointee, to move out of the office or face action.
"Dharam Pal has already been relieved by the Delhi government from the afternoon of June 9 and if he continues to occupy office in the secretariat, the same would be considered unauthorized occupation, and he would be liable for administrative as well as disciplinary action in this regard," said the one-page note signed by Jain, who has charge of the home department.
The Aam Aadmi Party government on June 9 had "repatriated" Pal for notifying appointment of Delhi Police’s Joint Commissioner MK Meena as the new chief of the Anti-Corruption Branch and given Rajendra Kumar, who is secretary to the chief minister, additional charge of home department. Meena was appointed the new ACB chief by Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, superseding Kejriwal’s handpicked candidate SS Yadav.
The move to replace Pal was rejected by the union government as "ab initio void", but Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal shot back, saying the order was indeed valid.
The latest missive of Jain comes in the wake of both Kumar and Pal working as principal secretaries (home) creating an anomalous situation. Both have refused to budge. While Pal is signing files from his office on the fifth floor, Kumar is taking decisions related to home department sitting on the third floor which has Kejriwal’s office.
In his note, Jain has asked Chief Secretary KK Sharma to "ensure files of home department are NOT put up to" Pal who is "unauthorizedly occupying the the post of principal secretary, but to the officer assigned the charge of secretary (home) (Kumar) by the services department". It also asks all officers in the department to strictly comply with the order.
Pal is backed by the union home ministry, which had on June 11 decree, rejected his transfer by the Kejriwal government.
In a three-page communication to Chief Secretary Sharma, it said Delhi had no authority to place the services of any officer of the AGMUT (Arunachal, Goa, Mizoram, Union Territory) cadre with the ministry and asked him to ensure that Pal "functions without disruption".
But the AAP is sticking by its choice.
In his reply to the home ministry, Kejriwal wrote that posting of senior bureaucrats was indeed the prerogative of the central government, but the discretion of allocating work to them was with the city government.
He also said it was up to the judiciary to decide whether the transfer was void since the issue was in court.
In recent days, there have been various flashpoints in the issue between the Kejriwal government and Jung, beginning with the later’s decision to appoint Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary – a decision vigorously protested by the AAP.