The Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday finally settled the issue of sharing of powers between the Delhi government and Lieutenant Governor. This has been at the centre of every debate involving executive decisions taken by the government ever since the AAP returned to power for the second time in 2015. Can the Chief Minister insist on appointing an officer of his choice? And can he direct departments under his government to route files pertaining to police, public order and land only through Delhi ministers? It was a standoff over these issues that led to the government approaching the courts.
Why did the AAP government knock at the court’s door?
The answer lies in the tussle between the Delhi government and former L-G Najeeb Jung.
In 2015, the appointment of Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary by the office of L-G has led to a confrontation with the state government. The AAP government accused the L-G’s office of interfering in the appointments of secretary-rank officials and acting like Delhi was under President’s rule.
Jung also cancelled all the appointments made by the Delhi government without consultation.
Matters came to a head when an AAP delegation met the then President Pranab Mukherjee and apprised him about the issue. The Delhi government later moved the High Court challenging a Ministry of Home Affairs notification that reiterated the constitutional validity of the L-G’s office.
What was the notification?
The MHA amended a 1998 notification in which it said that the L-G was the “administrative head” of National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi. It reminded the AAP government of its limited jurisdiction and left matters related to appointments and transfer of bureaucrats to the L-G. It also said the legislative assembly of Delhi has no “executive powers”.
In whose favour did the Delhi High Court rule?
Dealing a blow to the AAP government’s campaign for “full statehood” to Delhi, the High Court dismissed its contention that the L-G is bound to act only on the aid and the advice of the council of ministers. It also held that the decisions taken by the government, including appointments made by it, were “illegal”.
The government’s decision to probe irregularities in the functioning of Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) and the CNG fitness scam was also struck down as it was taken without seeking the view of the L-G.
Have things changed under L-G Anil Baijal?
The AAP government has repeatedly clashed with L-G Biajal over multiple issues, most recently regarding IAS officers allegedly not turning up for work. The government have also accused him of not clearing files and taking decisions unilaterally.
Kejriwal recently sat on a dharna inside the L-G’s office for nine days seeking that Baijal intervene to resolve the alleged strike by IAS officers. The issue was resolved after both parties worked out an acceptable solution.