The two-judge bench was divided on posting of bureaucrats in Delhi, refers matter to a larger bench
AAP said that the 'incomplete and divided' order goes against the ruling of the constitutional bench
NEW DELHI :
The Supreme Court on Thursday gave a split verdict on whether the centre or the Delhi government had the power over appointments, transfers, and posting of civil servants in Delhi.
One of the judges on the two-judge bench, Justice A.K. Sikri, was of the view that transfers and posting of officers of and above the rank of joint secretary should be under the purview of the lieutenant governor (L-G), while other officers should be under the Delhi government. However, Justice Ashok Bhushan, the other judge on the bench, was of the view that this was outside the purview of the Delhi government.
“With regard to ‘services’ the Delhi government can exercise only those executive powers that can be exercised by it under any law framed by the Parliament or it may exercise those executive powers that have been delegated to it", Justice Bhushan said in his separate judgement.
This issue will now be referred to a larger bench.
The SC ruling had come on a batch of petitions challenging several notifications of the central and state governments on issues including the power of appointments, transfer of civil servants, control of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), commissions of inquiry, and revision of circle rates of agricultural land. These had resulted in a tussle between the Delhi government and the L-G.
The ruling that has come ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to be held in April-May 2019 is a setback for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government, which has been claiming that the absence of complete power in the state is hampering them from fulfilling their promises because of interference by the L-G and the central government.
Delhi chief minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal said the judgement was against the Constitution. “The judgement is an injustice to the people of Delhi. We will explore legal options. There is no way an elected government can work like this. We have to go protest at the L-G’s house to get one file cleared," he said at a press conference.
Opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have criticized the AAP and asked the party to resolve issues with the authorities.
BJP spokesperson and Supreme Court lawyer Nalin Kohli said the verdict makes it clear that the Kejriwal government was trying to “usurp" the centre’s power as it has turned down its plea seeking control over the ACB and posting of senior officials.
A commission of inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, for probe into corruption cases can be set up by the L-G, the two judges concurred.
The court also granted supremacy to the centre with regard to exercise of power over the ACB and said that its control would lie exclusively with the L-G. Therefore, the ACB is not empowered to investigate into offences of central government employees under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The power to appoint a special public prosecutor and nominee directors of power distribution companies under the Delhi Electricity Reforms Act, 2000, would rest with the Delhi government, it said.
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