Supreme Court drains out power from Delhi government, Kejriwal shows disappointment

Ever since Arvind Kejriwal became the chief minister of New Delhi, there has been power turf between the state government and the lieutenant governor.

In a huge blow today to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, the Supreme Court has said that centre holds the power to order investigations against the corrupt officials in the capital. The state government is virtually out of power to order such an investigation.

However, the two-judge bench gave a split verdict over the issue. Following a split verdict, the court has left the decision on who controls Delhi officers to a higher bench.

Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, who were on the constitution bench, could not decide on who should have powers over officers in Delhi. Justice Sikri believed that the transfer of high-ranking officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above should be decided by the Lieutenant Governor.

What the Judgement say

The two major issues that the Delhi government went to the Supreme Court on were (i) the power to appoint and transfer the officers of State Public Services, and (ii) the power over the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). The appeals also concerned the right to implement the Electricity Reforms Act in Delhi.

While delivering the verdict, a two-judge bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, agreed upon matters pertaining to the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB), setting up of commissions of inquiry and land revenue matters among other issues.

On the challenge to the Lieutenant Governor’s directive to the ACB not to take cognizance of allegations against officers of the central government, the Bench has upheld the powers of the Centre.

Further, challenging to a notification issued by the Delhi government’s Vigilance Directorate under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 without first seeking the views/concurrence of the L-G, the Bench has upheld the point of view of the Centre. The central government is the “appropriate authority” under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, the court ruled out.

Acriticizeszes Apex court’s decision

As the verdict came heavily on the AAP government, Kejriwal slammed the apex court’s split verdict on the contentious issue of division of powers between the Delhi government and the Centre.

“We have been suffering for the last four years. For every work and getting each file cleared, if the Delhi chief minister and his ministers have to hold protests and sit on hunger strike at the L-G house, how will the government work? What sort of democracy is it?,” he asked.

“I appeal to the people to give us all 7 Lok Seats in the upcoming elections. We will ensure that whichever government is in power is forced to grant Delhi full statehood,”

he said.

Arvind Kejriwal’s government had argued that the elected government should have the power to act against corrupt bureaucrats before the court said the Anti-Corruption Bureau will be under the central government’s control.

In the tug of war between the LG and the CM, in July 2018, Arvind Kejriwal sat on a nine-day-long protest in front of Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s office to push him into ending an alleged strike by bureaucrats.

BJP reaction

As the Aam Aadmi Party declared their resentment over the split verdict given by the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, BJP ruled central government welcomed the decision

After Kejriwal expressed his disappointment against the apex court’s split verdict on the contentious issue of division of powers between the Delhi government and the Centre over control of services, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said his remarks were “the biggest attack on the apex court in political history”.

The judgement is a “big defeat” for Kejriwal, he asserted and demanded an apology from him for criticising the order.

The appeals before the court and the judgment are part of the long, ongoing tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre regarding the powers to administer the National Capital Territory. The AAP government has taken a combative stand against the centre regarding the powers given to the state government of Delhi and has repeatedly invoked the “rights” of the elected government of the state to act in what it has insisted are the interests of the people of Delhi.

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