Delhi govt vs Centre turf war: Supreme Court gives L-G control of Anti-Corruption Bureau, but judges split on services

The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict in a case related to defining the executive powers of the Delhi and the Central government, settling the long-standing jurisdiction battle between Centre and the Delhi government on certain issues.

Out of the six specific areas the Supreme Court was looking to settle, the two judges, Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan, had contrasting opinions as to who wielded power on the Delhi bureaucracy. Therefore, the matter related to Services (transfer and appointments of bureaucrats, mainly in Delhi secretariat) has been referred to a larger bench. On all other matters, the two-judge bench largely gave a consensual verdict and mostly upheld the Lieutenant Governor's stand.

The court was adjuging specific relating to matters of services (transfer of bureaucrats), anti-corruption bureau, appropriate government under the Commission of Enquiry Act, Electricty reforms act, Revision of minimum rates of agricultural land, and Power to appoint Special Public Prosecutor. Here are key highlight points from the judgment.

  1. On the Services matter, Justice Sikri held that transfers and posting of officers of and above the rank of Joint Secretary are under the powers of the Lieutenant Governor, whereas other officers below the aforementioned rank are under the control of Delhi government, Live Law reported. However, Justice Bhushan dissented from Justice Sikri, and held that all the officers fall under the domain of the Central government. The matter has been referred to a larger bench for the final word.
  2. The Supreme Court also agreed with L-G's stand on Delhi government's anti-corruption branch. It upheld L-G Anil Baijal's order that the ati-corruption branch cannot investigate offences against Central government officers.
  3. On the issue that under which government should the Commission of enquiry fall, both Justice Sikri and Justice Bhushan concurred that going by the provisions of the general clauses act, the appropriate government in this case will be the central government, and not the Delhi government.
  4. On the Electricity reforms act, the Supreme Court said that government of National Capital Territory of Delhi holds the final jurisdiction.
  5. The Supreme Court further held that the power to appoint public prosecutor for the government of Delhi lies with the government of NCT Delhi, and not the Centre
File image of the Supreme Court of India. PTI

File image of the Supreme Court of India. PTI

The matter was brought before court as Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had been at loggerheads with incumbent L-G 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.

The bench had on 1 November, 2018 reserved its verdict on the petitions challenging the notifications issued by the Centre and the Delhi government.

During the hearings, the Centre had told the apex court that the Lieutenant Governor has 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 L-G, who is the administrator of Delhi, cannot consult the chief minister or the Council of Ministers.

On 4 October, 2018, the Delhi government had told the apex 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 top court that it wanted to know where it stands with regard to the administration in view of the Constitution bench verdict of the apex court on 4 July.

The five-judge bench had laid down broad parameters for governance of the National Capital, which has witnessed a power struggle between the Centre and the Delhi government since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power in 2014.

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, saying he has no "independent decision-making power" and has to act on the aid and advice of the elected government. However, the verdict did not go into the specific areas in which the L-G's power supercede the Delhi government's, something that the current ruling sought to do.

On 19 September, 2018 the Centre had told the apex 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 court that a five-judge constitution bench of the apex court had categorically held that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state.

It had contended that one of the basic issues was that 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 also said that the national capital houses several institutions of vital importance like Parliament and the Supreme Court, and foreign diplomats also reside in Delhi.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Feb 14, 2019 11:38:03 IST

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