Counter to SC verdict, Centre issues ordinance on Delhi Services: LG's decision to be final
On May 11, a Constitution bench of the SC ruled that a democratically elected Delhi government should have control over its officers. Is the Centre acting in contempt of court?
The Central government on Friday passed an ordinance to set up a National Capital Civil Service Authority, whose chairperson will be the Delhi chief minister and which will include a chief secretary and a principal secretary (home), to make recommendations to the lieutenant governor of Delhi regarding matters concerning transfer posting, vigilance and other incidental matters.
Critically, the ordinance holds that in case of a difference of opinion, the decision of the Lt Governor shall be final.
This ordinance comes amid an ongoing tug-of-war between the AAP government and the current lieutenant governor of Delhi, which the Supreme Court just decided in favour of the government of the national capital territory of Delhi (GNCTD) recently.
Slamming the Central government's ordinance, AAP minister Saurabh Bhardwaj said, "The Centre has perpetrated fraud and treachery with the Constitution of the country and the Supreme Court order."
Another AAP minister, Atishi Marlena, termed the BJP a 'murderer of the Constitution' while tweeting in response to the ordinance.
In a series of tweets in Hindi suggesting that the Centre was risking contempt of court, she said, "[This ordinance] attempts to unConstitutionally seize the powers assigned to the elected government of Delhi by the Supreme Court. The Central government has brought this ordinance in order to murder democracy as well as the Constitution."
"Arvind Kejriwal has been elected by the people of Delhi, given more than 90 per cent seats, but he will not run Delhi, Centre will run the Delhi government," she said rather caustically at a press conference this morning.
Congress leader and noted lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi also took a jibe at the Central government, saying this was the act of a bad, poor and graceless loser.
In a tweet, Singhvi, who had represented the Delhi government in the Supreme Court, said: "The new ordinance re #NCT [will have] to be closely examined. But clearly, it is the act of a bad, poor [and] graceless loser. Doubtful if [Constitutional] principles [can] be diluted by ordinances/acts. Greater doubt whether Parliament as a whole [will] at all approve it."
The Centre's ordinance does seem to inveigh against the apex court's verdict giving the Delhi government control in matters of the Services, including the transfer and posting of officers.
According to the ordinance—whose timing can only be understood as a response to the Supreme Court's ruling—the National Capital Civil Service Authority would statutorily balance the interest of the nation with the interest of the Union Territory of Delhi in the administration of the capital, by giving 'purposeful meaning to the manifestation of the democratic will of the people', which is reposed both in the Central government as well as the GNCTD.
According to the new ordinance, all matters required to be decided by the authority shall be decided by a majority of votes of the members present and voting. All the recommendations of the authority must also be authenticated by the secretary.
'In case of difference of opinion, the decision of the Lieutenant Governor shall be final,' the ordinance says.
On May 11, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court ruled that it is ideal for the democratically elected Delhi government to have control over its officers, and added that the lieutenant governor is bound by the advice of the elected government in everything other than the subjects of public order, police and land.
The apex court stressed that if the government is not able to control and hold to account the officers posted in its service, then its responsibility towards the legislature as well as the public is diluted.
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023, however, states that there is a need to promote the national interests without compromising on the democratic aspirations of the residents of Delhi.
'The National Capital Civil Service Authority shall have the responsibility to recommend the transfers and postings of all the Group "A" officers and officers of DANICS serving in the affairs of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi but not officers serving in connection with any subject matter, either fully or in part, connected with Entries 1, 2, and 18 of List II—State List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, and Entries 64, 65 and 66 of List II—State List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution in so far as they relate to the entries 1, 2, and 18, or any other subject matter which is connected therewith or incidental thereto, to the Lieutenant Governor...,' the ordinance reads.
Meanwhile, the Centre has also submitted a review plea to the Supreme Court.
With inputs from agencies