The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict on the Delhi government’s power to appoint and transfer civil servants, Live Law reported.
The court delivered the ruling after hearing a batch of petitions last year that challenged notifications issued by the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi amid a power tussle with the Centre. The judgement had been reserved three months ago.
Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, who were on the two-judge bench, referred the matter of jurisdicton over “services” to a larger bench, ANI reported. On other matters under consideration, the judges delivered concurring verdicts.
The petitioners had asked the Supreme Court to decide who has control over services in the Delhi administration, the power to set up commissions of inquiry, control over the anti-corruption bureau, and the postings and transfers of bureaucrats.
Sikri said the posting and transfer officers of and above the rank of Joint Secretary would fall under the lieutenant governor, while others will come under the purview of the Delhi government, Live Law reported.
On the anti-corruption bureau, the judge upheld the Centre’s power to take cognisance of offences against Central government officers. Sikri said the anti-corruption bureau would be under the control of the lieutenant governor and ruled that the Delhi government has no power over the police.
On setting up commissions for inquiry, Sikri said the Centre was the appropriate authority going by the provisions of the General Clauses Act. The power to appoint special public prosecutor lies with the Delhi government, and so does the Delhi electricity reforms act, Sikri added.
On the rates for agricultural land, the two judges said the lieutenant governor can form an opinion but not on every matter. “L-G is not expected to differ routinely but in cogent cases,” the judges said, according to the Hindustan Times. “There may be contingencies where LG and ministers may differ, L-G is supposed to refer the difference to president, decision cannot be implemented without referring to L-G.”
The bench said the lieutenant governor was expected to honour the wisdom of ministers and not stymie their decisions.
During the hearings, the Centre had told the court that the lieutenant governor has the power to regulate services in Delhi. The powers are delegated to the lieutenant governor as the administrator of the national Capital, it had added.
On July 4, the Constitution bench had asked both Delhi and Centre to practise “collaborative federalism”, The Hindu reported. The court had restricted the jurisdiction of the lieutenant governor to matters of land, police and public order. On other matters, the lieutenant governor was asked to act on the aid and advice of the council of ministers of the elected government of the National Capital.
In January, the court dismissed a petition filed against Kejriwal that sought to declare his hunger strike outside the lieutenant governor’s office in June last year unconstitutional.
However, in November 2017, the court had said the lieutenant governor of Delhi has more power than the governor of a state. The Supreme Court said the lieutenant governor can exercise his discretion according to Article 239AA of the Constitution.