As the tug-of-war between the Centre and the Delhi government over the appointment of acting chief secretary Shakuntala Gamlin escalated, the Delhi government on Monday obtained the opinion of senior Supreme Court lawyer Rajeev Dhavan over the powers of the Lt-Governor to appoint a chief secretary.
In an indication that the Delhi government may be considering taking a legal recourse over its ongoing tussle with the Lt-Governor and the Centre, Dhavan submitted a three-page legal opinion to the Delhi government, stating that “this crisis has been created entirely by the Lt-Governor”. Dhavan wrote, “It is abundantly clear that the Lt-Governor has exceeded his authority and has turned the entire relationship between himself and the Council of Ministers on its head to jeopardise democracy and the Constitution.”
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Dhavan wrote in his opinion dated May 18, “I have been consulted on the issue as to whether the Lt-Governor can appoint a chief secretary if the Chief Minister does not do so within 40 hours.” He then cited eight points pointing out the legal provisions including those in the Constitution, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, Rules of Business framed by the central government under section 44.
Applying the provisions to the present row, Dhavan said the chief minister has a “perfect right” to a chief secretary of his choice. “The fact that there has been a lapse of 40 hours is not sufficient reason for the Lt-Governor to impose his choice on the chief minister especially when his urgency powers arise only when a reference is pending before the Central government.” At best, Dhavan stated, the Lt Governor can advise the CM that it is necessary to appoint a chief secretary forthwith.
“It is clearly stated that the Lt-Governor will act on the aid and advice of the chief minister in matters within the remit of legislative assembly,” he said.