A day after the Supreme Court clipped the powers of Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor (L-G), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government and bureaucrats continued to spar, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) insisted on reinterpreting the apex court verdict and the Congress betrayed confusion on its stand on the issue.
The AAP leadership said it could move a contempt petition against those who had refused to comply with its directive on transfers and postings.
Hours after the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment, which said the L-G is bound by the elected government’s advice and cannot be an “obstructionist”, the Delhi government on Wednesday introduced a new system for transfer and postings of bureaucrats, making Chief Minister (CM) Arvind Kejriwal the approving authority.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with his deputy Manish Sisodia at Delhi Secretariat on Thursday photo: pti
However, the services department refused to comply, saying the Supreme Court did not abolish the notification issued in 2016 which made the Ministry of Home Affairs the authority for transfers and postings.
“If they (the bureaucrats) are not going to abide by it and the transfer files will still be seen by the L-G then it will amount to contempt of the Constitution Bench,” Deputy CM Manish Sisodia said. He said the Supreme Court had clearly stated that the L-G has the power to interfere only in three subjects, which does not include the services department.
In a blog, Union Minister Arun Jaitley said the “presumption” of the Delhi government that the Supreme Court judgment has given it administrative powers over Union Territory (UT) cadre officers is “wholly erroneous”. He said the judgment of the apex court does not either add to the powers of the state government or the central government nor does it in any way dilute them.
Jaitley said if Delhi has no police powers, it “cannot set up” investigative agency to investigate crimes as had been done in the past. “Secondly, the Supreme Court has held categorically that Delhi cannot compare itself on a par with other states and, therefore, any presumption that the administration of the UT cadre of services has been decided in favour of the Delhi government would be wholly erroneous,” Jaitley said.
The Congress party, meanwhile, continued to speak in multiple voices. Its Delhi unit leadership, including Ajay Maken and Sheila Dikshit, seemed more inclined to Jaitley’s view. Others, including senior leader P Chidambarama and Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy have termed it a victory for democracy and accused the Centre of interfering in allowing a democratically elected government from discharging its duties. It has also argued that the case of Delhi and Puducherry, where Narayanasamy-led government finds itself in a similar turf battle with L-G Kiran Bedi, was similar.