The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict on the contentious issue of control of services in Delhi. A division bench of Justice AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan referred the matter to a larger bench due to difference in opinion. On the other five issues, the court however delivered a unanimous judgement.
The verdict has come as a big blow to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who has been at the loggerheads with the Centre ever since he took charge in 2015. Interestingly, the top court’s order comes on a day when AAP government is observing its fourth anniversary in power.
After today’s judgement, it is now clear that Lieutenant Governor is the administrative head of Delhi which happens to be a Union Territory, meaning the Centre has direct involvement in a few matters. However, according to Kejriwal’s contention, the Delhi government has equal powers akin to other states.
In two out of six issues, the Supreme Court clearly ruled in favour of the Centre. The court said that the anti-corruption branch and setting up commission of inquiry comes under the direct purview of the Centre. The court also upheld Centre’s notification to scrap investigation against its employees by the ACB.
“The Centre will be the appropriate authority under the Commissions of Inquiry Act,” the bench said.
On land revenue matters, the court said that the right lies with the Delhi government but the L-G has power to refer the matter to President. This also means that the L-G will have the final word on deciding matters related to land.
According to Kejriwal, incumbent L-G Anil Baijal and his successor Najeeb Jung were acting at the behest of the Centre and were blocking the projects of AAP government. The Centre, on its part, has always maintained that it is the L-G who is the administrative head of Delhi.
On control over electricity boards and appointment of pubic prosecutors, the judgment was unanimous. The bench said that the two issues lie within the Delhi government’s domain.
Interestingly, on the issue of control of Services, the opinion was split. Although it was a split verdict, it was the L-G who appeared to have an upper hand as well. While Justice Sikri said that the right to transfer and postings of Joint Secretary and above rank officials lies with the Centre and rest with the Delhi government, Justice Bhushan observed that Services is completely out of the Delhi government’s ambit.
Notably, Kejriwal has been alleging that it is the Delhi government that has the right to transfer officials just like other states. He had even transferred many of the bureaucrats but all were annulled by the L-G who cited the rule book to say he holds the right on transfer and postings of officials.
Since the two judges differed on the issue of control of Services, the matter was referred to a larger bench.
Meanwhile, Kejriwal said that the judgment is against constitution and democracy. “It was injustice to the people of Delhi,” he said and sought to reiterate his charge that that BJP was creating hurdles in the functioning of AAP government.
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Source: Financial Express