After having a split verdict on whether the AAP government or the Lieutenant Governor should have jurisdiction over ‘Services’ in Delhi, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday referred the issue to a larger constitutional bench.
While Justice AK Sikri said transfers and postings of Joint Secretaries and officers above will be in the domain of Lieutenant Governor; for those below them, the recommendation will be routed through the Council of Ministers of the elected government in Delhi.
However, Justice Ashok Bhushan differed saying that the Delhi government has no control over appointments. Transfer and appointment of “higher” officers will rest with the Centre, he added.
The Centre alone will control the Anti-Corruption Bureau and can only pass orders under the Commission of Inquiry Act.
However, the Delhi government can decide the minimum rate of the agricultural land in the national capital. The power to regulate the Electricity Board, revenue department and appointment of advocates also rests with the government.
In case of difference of opinion, LG’s view will prevail, the court observed.
On issues where differences are fundamentally backed by cogent reasons, the LG would have to refer the matter to the President for a decision which would be binding.
The Supreme Court was hearing on a batch of petitions challenging various notifications including on control of services and power of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in the ongoing tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre.
A bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had on November 1 last year reserved its verdict on the petitions challenging the notifications issued by the Narendra Modi government and the AAP government in Delhi.
During the hearings, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that the lieutenant governor (LG) had the power to regulate services in Delhi. The powers are delegated to the administrator of Delhi and the services can be administered through him, it had said.
The Centre also said that unless the President of India expressly directs, the lieutenant governor, who is the administrator of Delhi, cannot consult the chief minister or the council of ministers.
On October 4 last year, the Delhi government had told the Supreme Court that it wanted its petitions relating to the governance of the national capital be heard soon as it did not want “stalemate to continue in administration”.
The Delhi government had told the Supreme Court that it wanted to know where it stood with regard to the administration in view of the Constitution bench verdict of the Supreme Court on July 4.
The five-judge bench had on July 4 last year laid down broad parameters for governance of the national capital, which has witnessed a power struggle between the Narendra Modi government and the Delhi government since the Aam Aadmi Party came to power in 2015.
In the landmark verdict, it had unanimously held that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state, but clipped the powers of the Lieutenant Governor (LG), saying he had no “independent decision-making power” and had to act on the aid and advice of the elected government.
On September 19 last year, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that administration of Delhi cannot be left to the Delhi government alone and emphasised that it has an “extraordinary” position by virtue of being the country’s capital. The Centre had told the Supreme Court that a five-judge constitution bench of the apex court had categorically held that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state.
The Centre had contended that one of the basic issues was whether the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) has the legislative and executive powers so far as ‘services’ were concerned.
“Delhi has an extraordinary position as it is the capital of the country,” it had said. It said that the national capital housed several institutions of vital importance like Parliament and the Supreme Court and foreign diplomats also resided here.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had been at loggerheads with incumbent Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and his predecessor Najeeb Jung. Kejriwal had accused both of them of preventing the functioning of his government at the behest of the BJP-led Central government.
(With agency inputs)