Amid a power tussle between Delhi’s elected government and its Lieutenant-Governor, the office of the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor released a statement on July 6, making it clear that the L-G would continue to control “services” — which essentially means transfers and postings of bureaucrats — as long as a notification issued by the Home Ministry on May 21, 2015, remains in force.
This came after a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that decisions of the elected government of Delhi do not require the concurrence of the L-G, who only needs to be informed, and that he is bound by the “aid and advice” of the elected government. After the judgment, however, the Home Ministry notification has now emerged as a flashpoint between the two sides.
Serving as well as former officers say that the 2015 notification brought about a departure from the way Delhi was being administered when it came to transfers and postings.
“Over the last two decades, the rules have been watered down a little to grant more freedom to the elected government. But it was not put in writing so clearly. Governments prior to this were functioning on an understanding. The L-G would decide posting for officers of the rank of Principal Secretary and the CM was taken into confidence. For all other officers, the CM would be responsible but the L-G would be in the know,” said a former Chief Secretary.
When the AAP came to power in February 2015, things started to change. Confrontation over transferring and posting officers came to the fore in the first two weeks of May, when the Home Ministry appointed Shakuntala Gamlin as acting Chief Secretary, which AAP protested against. While she was appointed, the officer who signed the order, Anindo Majumdar, was locked out of his room. It was in this backdrop that the Home Ministry issued the notification.
For the first time, it put in black and white that services would fall under the Home Ministry, through the L-G. It formally added services to the list of matters that the L-G has authority over, and left it to the L-G’s discretion to obtain the views of the Chief Minister on matters relating to services.
“As such, it is clear that the National Capital Territory of Delhi does not have its own State Public Services. Thus, ‘services’ will fall within this category,” the Home Ministry notification said.
The notification also said that the Anti Corruption Branch will not take cognisance of offences against employees of the central government.
IAS and IPS personnel for Delhi fall under the AGMUT cadre and are common to Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, Delhi, Chandigarh, Puducherry, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, and Daman & Diu. Other officials, part of the DANICS and DANIPS cadre, are common to Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, and Daman & Diu — administered by the Home Ministry.
Immediately after the July 5 Supreme Court judgment, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia issued a statement that authorised the Chief Minister, himself and other ministers to handle the services department, casting away the L-G’s role.
It was in response to this that Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal’s office released the statement stressing the L-G’s control on services, while acknowledging that the elected government does not need his concurrence on matters under the legislative purview of the Delhi Assembly. Going by the judgment, the Assembly has no power to legislate on matters pertaining to the reserved subjects of police, public order and land.
Apart from stressing the validity of the Home Ministry notification, the L-G office’s statement said the government had interpreted the judgment “erroneously” and clarity over the division of power will come after appeals pending before the court’s Regular Bench are disposed of.
Last Tuesday, AAP sought early disposal of all appeals filed by Delhi Government. The matter is expected to be heard this week. The L-G, meanwhile, has passed orders for transferring three officers, including the education director and posting another officer in her place.