The Supreme Court on Friday referred the Centre’s plea on the control of Indian Administrative Service officers and other government officials posted in Delhi to a five-judge constitutional bench, Bar and Bench reported.
The three-judge bench observed that the main contention in the plea is the interpretation of Article 239AA.
“It appears all the issues have been elaborately dealt with,” said the court, according to Bar and Bench. “We don’t want to revisit the issues settled by the previous constitution bench. On the aspect of services, we deem it appropriate to refer it to a constitution bench.”
A bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli listed the matter for hearing next on May 11.
Article 239AA(3) grants the Delhi Legislative Assembly the power to make laws with respect to all but three entries in the state list. These entries are public order, police and land. It is because of this exception that the Delhi Police is under the control of the Centre and not the Delhi government.
The Union government had filed the plea to refer the matter to a constitutional bench seeking a holistic interpretation of the Article.
On April 28, the Supreme Court had reserved its judgement on the matter. The Delhi government had contended that there was no need for the matter to be sent to a larger bench.
A day earlier, the Union government had told the Supreme Court that it needed power over transfers and postings of officials in Delhi as it is the national Capital.
The laws on postings of officials in Delhi had been framed keeping in mind the city’s administration, and not any political party, the Centre had said. It had made the statement in an affidavit filed in response to a petition by the Delhi government that questioned the Union government’s control over civil service personnel in the city.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Delhi government, had cited the 2018 constitution bench judgement by the Supreme Court. He had said that the verdict had no ambiguity about Delhi government’s powers.
In 2018, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had said that the lieutenant governor of Delhi, who is appointed by the president, is bound by the “aid and advice” of the council of ministers of the Delhi government in all matters under its jurisdiction.
On the other hand, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government, had demanded that the matter be sent to a constitution bench on several grounds, including that the 2018 judgement did not give any roadmap to decide if the Union or the Delhi government will have the competence to deal with a disputed subject.