Centre vs AAP government: Transfers, postings new bone of contention

Manish SIsodiya AAP

New Delhi, July 5 (IANS) Notwithstanding the Supreme Court ruling on the Delhi government’s powers vis-a-vis the Lt Governor, a new tussle broke out on Thursday with the AAP government claiming that the powers to transfer or post officers lie with it while a Union minister said Delhi being a Union Territory makes its powers subservient to the Central government.

The war of words erupted a day after the Supreme Court pronounced its judgement over jurisdiction of powers between the Centre and the Delhi government, saying the Lt Governor has to abide by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.

The new controversy, which arose hours after the apex court’s verdict on Wednesday, assumed serious proportions when Delhi’s Chief Secretary (Services) refused to issue an order that the Council of Ministers in Delhi would decide on departmental transfers and postings.

The AAP government asked the officers to respect the Supreme Court order, saying disobeying it amounted to contempt of court and would invite serious consequences.

“All officers should respect and obey SC order. Open defiance of SC order shall invite serious consequences. It will be in no one’s interest,” Kejriwal tweeted in the evening.

Earlier, in a four-page letter written to Lt Governor Anil Baijal, Kejriwal said that after the Supreme Court judgment, the executive powers related to “services” lie with the elected government and not with the Lt Governor or Central government.

“The Central government or the LG have executive powers only on three subjects. On all other subjects, executive powers lie with the Council of Ministers. Therefore, executive power related to ‘services’ lie with the council members,” the letter said.

Kejriwal said the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that Delhi’s Lt Governor was constitutionally bound by the “aid and advice” of the elected government in all areas except land, police and public order.

The Chief Secretary cited a 2015 notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs as the reason for rejection, saying it has not been specifically quashed.

Calling this “contempt of court”, Kejriwal said: “The said notification becomes infructuous in the light of clear orders of the Supreme Court. The judgment of court has been effective the moment it was pronounced.

“If the files related to services are placed before the LG and he acts on them, it would clearly amount to contempt of Supreme Court in the light of its judgment.”

Seeking support from the LG for the development of Delhi, Kejriwal said that he plans to “issue orders to all functionaries” on Friday and in case of any contrary views, “the Cabinet Ministers are ready to come over for a discussion”.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who directed its services department to issue the order, said the refusal by senior bureaucrats to comply with Supreme Court ruling amounted to contempt of court.

Sisodia said the government was now seeking legal opinion on the matter.

“The Chief Secretary has written to me saying the services department will not abide by the court’s order. This will also create problems for the officers if they do not abide by the order. If the LG, even after the court’s order, insists to see the service department file, then that is a contempt of court,” he said.

The AAP leader said that after the Supreme Court order, the central government had no control over the service department in the capital.

“But even then, the officers are saying that the (Home Ministry’s earlier) orders have not been quashed and that’s why they will not comply with the Supreme Court’s orders. If the apex court orders something, then there is no scope of not abiding by it,” he said.

“If the orders of a court, that too the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court, are openly violated, then the country would go into a state of chaos. Where will be the law then?” Sisodia asked.

He said the centre, the LG or the officers may not like the court order but they will have to abide by it.

The AAP government went aggressive after Union Minister Arun Jaitley rejected claims by AAP on the powers of the Delhi government, saying the Supreme Court judgement emphasises the importance of the elected state government but Delhi being a Union Territory makes its powers subservient to the Central government.

In a Facebook post, he also said the apex court has held categorically that Delhi cannot compare itself on par with other states and, therefore, any presumption that the administrative control of the UT cadre of services has been decided in favour of Delhi government would be wholly erroneous.

Jaitley said the judgement elaborates at length the constitutional philosophy behind the Constitution and reaffirms precisely the text of what the Constitution says.

“It does not add to the powers of the state government or the central government nor does it in any way dilute the same. It emphasizes the importance of elected state government but Delhi being a Union Territory makes its powers subservient to the central government,” he said.

Delhi Lt Governor and Arvind Kejriwal AAP