The split verdict by the Supreme Court Bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan is a setback to the Delhi government. The spokesman for the Aam Aadmi Party has already declared the verdict as a “disappointment”, and the BJP has welcomed it.
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.
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.
On the challenge 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, too, 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 has ruled.
The two Justices have differed on the aspect of services, and that matter will now be referred to a larger Bench of the court.
Justice Sikri has ruled that power of transfers and postings of officers from the rank of Joint Secretary upward lies with the L-G; files regarding the rest of the officers are to be routed through the Delhi government. Justice Bhushan, has, however, ruled that “Services” as a whole are outside the purview of the Delhi government.
All issues pertaining to the Electricity Reforms Act, the revision of minimum rates of agricultural land, and the power to appoint a special public prosecutor are, however, with the Delhi government, the Bench held.
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 line on a range of issues, 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. Even after Thursday’s verdict, the spokesman for the AAP demanded to know how the state government was expected to perform its duties when it did not even have the powers to choose its officials for the jobs.