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Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal addressing a press conference at Delhi Secretariat in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: PTI
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal addressing a press conference at Delhi Secretariat in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: PTI

High court says anti-graft body can probe Delhi Police

The court held that the Delhi govt's Anti-Corruption Branch has the jurisdiction to arrest policemen

New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) scored a moral victory on Monday with the Delhi high court ruling that the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Delhi can investigate Delhi Police personnel.

The ruling on Monday comes in the backdrop of the Union government’s notification which declared that the ACB could not look into the offences by officers of the central government. Preceding this notification, the AAP and lieutenant governor (LG) Najeeb Jung have been engaged in a bitter war of words, over the jurisdiction of the Delhi government.

The ruling will not only escalate the confrontation but bring forward the inevitable flash point between the state government and the Union government. The high court has also observed that the 21 May ministry of home affairs notification was beyond the central government’s powers.

Politically, the ruling could also give a boost to the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal-led government, which has recently waged a turf war against the LG primarily over the posting and transfers of senior officials. The AAP is trying to highlight the constraints in the federal structure, specially in the context of Delhi where, unlike other states, matters of law and order and land come under the purview of the Union home ministry, creating a fertile situation for potential conflicts between centre and the state.

The court was hearing a bail application filed by Anil Kumar, head constable at Sonia Vihar police station. Kumar was caught by the Anti Corruption Bureau on bribery charges based on a complaint filed by a used cars salesman, who claimed that Kumar and two others had asked him to pay 20,000.

Justice Vipin Sanghi, while dismissing the bail application, said that where the legislative assembly of Delhi had the powers to make laws, the executive through the President and the lieutenant governor would not have the authority to make laws.

The Delhi Police too, which was the point in case, functions under the direct administrative control of the home ministry. The AAP government has called an emergency session of the Delhi assembly beginning from Tuesday to discuss the notification, which could be extended if needed. “Today’s HC judgement (is) a huge embarrassment for (the) central government. HC also said that the latest 21 May MHA notification is ‘suspect’," the 46-year-old chief minister wrote on Twitter.

The Kejriwal-led AAP, which completed 100 days in office on Sunday, trounces the BJP in the Delhi assembly polls in February, with the saffron party winning only three of 70 seats in the assembly. Even the court, delineating in clear terms what the powers of Delhi legislative assembly and the LG would be, said in no uncertain terms that the mandate of the people had to be respected.

“The mandate of the people, with whom the sovereign power resides, must be respected by the lieutenant governor in respect of matters which fall within the domain of the legislative assembly, provided there is no other constitutional or legal fetter," the ruling said.

Judge Sanghi clarified that the central government did not have representation in the case and that he was “proceeding to consider the merits of the submissions on this aspect on the basis of limited representation, only for the purpose of this case".

The court also said that the Union government did not have the power to issue the 23 July 2014 notification, which restricted the powers of the ACB to only employees of Delhi (and not central government employees). It also ropes in the recent (21 May) notification of the ministry of home affairs as being potentially beyond the government’s powers in this background.

“The home ministry is not a party to the case. The home ministry will obtain a copy of the judgement and take appropriate legal recourse in the matter, a home ministry spokesperson said, according to news agency PTI.

Meanwhile, the AAP government on Monday held an open cabinet meeting in Connaught Place in central Delhi to update voters on the work done by the party during its 100 days in power. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, along with deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, and cabinet ministers addressed the public on the governments achievements.

“All our ministers and MLAs are here today. I feel very proud in presenting them to you. If you hear the work then you will also feel that you don’t think any other government in India has done so much work," Kejriwal said. “Broadly our government has 11 focus points including water, electricity, education, health, women security, JJ colonies (slums), unauthorized colonies, anti-corruption, traffic, pollution and increasing prices."

On being questioned on the fight against the centre, Kejriwal said, “Our fight to get our hands untied is on, along with that our work is also on. The fight will go on and I am hopeful that in the next five years, we will be able to take back some of the rights that the centre has taken away. Our fight is not against the centre, we want to work together."

Anuja contributed to the story.

shreeja.s@livemint.com

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