For the third time in two-and-a-half years, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has suffered a setback from the higher judiciary over extent of his authority vis-à-vis the Centre. This time around the blow is particularly severe because the Supreme Court has ruled that the Centre, not the Delhi government, will have control over three of the most critical subjects — Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) staffed by Delhi Police personnel, transfer posting of Grade I and II officials, IAS, DANICS and senior SSB officials, and setting up commissions of inquiry. This also comes at a time when Kejriwal was busy trying to position himself as one of the principal players in the anti-Narendra Modi Opposition coalition.
Ever since Kejriwal came to power, first for 47 days in December 2013 and then since February 2015, he has been at loggerheads with the lieutenant-governor over these three subjects despite knowing fully well that in terms of distribution of powers, Delhi is only half-a-state, a "glorified municipal corporation", as many say.
But the Aam Admi Party chief always had different ideas for it that suited his politics — embrace the victimhood of a fighter and thus emerge as principal challenger to Modi. In the process, he paid less attention to governance and ultimately it was the people of Delhi who suffered most.
In August 2016, the Delhi High Court ruled that the lieutenant-governor is the administrative head of Delhi government and all decisions taken by its ministers must be communicated to him. The court also quashed two commissions of inquiry set up by the Kejriwal government into alleged irregularities in granting CNG fitness certificates and in the running of the DDCA, Delhi's cricket body, which was earlier headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Kejriwal had then trained his guns on Jaitley.
In July 2018, Kejriwal interpreted a five-judge constitution bench order in his own way and the lieutenant-governor had his own interpretation of the verdict. The court advised "collaborative federalism", but didn't go into detail on who has the final say on the services.
Thursday's two-judge bench verdict by Supreme Court was another blow to the Kejriwal government. It ruled that on all three critical issues — who controls ACB, who had authority to transfer and post senior officials in Delhi government and who had powers to constitute a commission under Commission of Inquiry Act, the Centre and not the Delhi government has the decisive say. Also in case of a dispute between Kejriwal government and the lieutenant-governor, the view of the latter will prevail.
Kejriwal's response to the verdict was characteristic of the image he had built for self, that of an anarchist.
A day ago on Wednesday he had played host to leaders of the anti-Modi coalition, "Tanashahi Hatao, Loktantra Bachao' at Jantar Mantar where they shouted themselves hoarse saying, "Save institutions!". A day later, on Thursday afternoon immediately after the Supreme Court verdict, he and his senior party colleagues openly targeted the apex court — the foremost institution of the country. Sample some of the statements by Kejriwal and his party's Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh.
At a press conference, Kejriwal thundered that this decision of the Supreme Court is not only against the people of Delhi, but also "against the Constitution". The Supreme Court is supposed to be the protector of the Constitution and law of the land, but Kejriwal clearly thinks otherwise. The Supreme Court delivering an unconstitutional judgment is one accusation. His other argument that people hold the real key, is again open to interpretation.
Singh went a step forward. He asked if the Supreme Court did not want to give a verdict against the wishes of Modi. "Open corruption took place in the Rafale case, the Centre lied in theSupreme Court but the Supreme Court remained silent. Did the Supreme Court gave a verdict on the CBI or did it crack a joke? It played with the sentiments of crores of people of Delhi, is it the Supreme Court or the Naib Tehsildar Court?" he asked
Even before Supreme Court gave its verdict, on Wedneesday evening, AAP tweeted:
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) February 14, 2019
And after the verdict, the AAP Rajya Sabha MP tweeted asking, "Has Supreme Court dumped all its dignity?"
It's worth taking a look at how it all started and culminated in the Centre's notification and three court (one of the high court and two of the Supreme Court) orders. Soon after he came to power in 2013, he filed an FIR against two Union ministers, accusing them of fixing gas prices. There is a long list of issues and instances where Kejriwal chose to take the path of confrontation rather than opening up a dialogue or a path of conciliation with the lieutenant-governor and Centre.
Kejriwal believes that since he received the popular mandate to become chief minister, he could rule Delhi, which essentially is a Union Territory, the way he wanted. Delhi is not a full state. He and his party members conveniently forget that governments of a state, Union and Union Territory are run as per constitutional provisions.
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Updated Date: Feb 14, 2019 19:26:11 IST