Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Delhi vs Centre: SC to hear plea on control of administrative services on November 24

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday set a November 24 hearing date for the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government’s petition on the thorny subject of who should manage administrative services in Delhi, including transfers and postings of officers in the national capital.

The matter was scheduled for November 24 instead of November 9 by a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli. The bench moved the hearing date at the request of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who noted the matter in his appeal to postpone the hearing.

Mehta informed the bench that he would be travelling outside of India for official business from November 7 to 13, and that he had requested a change in hearing date.

Earlier, a five-judge Constitution bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha asked the parties to complete the compilation of papers in the case meanwhile and it will start day-to-day hearing from November 9.

The apex court bench had said that this will be a complete green bench and there will be no papers in this matter.

“Don’t circulate any paper compilations. We want this bench to be a green bench,” Justice Chandrachud had said. The top court had said that to make counsels acquainted with technology in the legal proceedings, training would be conducted over the weekend.

The court must rule on the legal question of the scope of the Centre’s and Delhi government’s legislative and executive powers over management of services in the national capital.

The case was scheduled to be considered by a Constitution bench after a three-judge court agreed in May this year to refer it to a larger bench in response to the Central government’s plea.

On February 14, 2019, a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court issued a split judgement on the subject of the GNCTD’s and the Union government’s jurisdiction over services and sent the case to a three-judge Bench.

Justice Ashok Bhushan declared that the Delhi government had no authority over administrative services. However, Justice AK Sikri stated that the transfer or posting of personnel in the top echelons of the bureaucracy (joint director and above) may only be done by the Central government, and the view of the lieutenant governor would prevail in cases involving other bureaucrats.

Except for the control over services, the two-judge bench hearing pleas on six issues related to a long-running controversy between the Centre and the Delhi government issued a unanimous judgement on the remaining five issues.

Governance of the national capital has witnessed a power struggle between the Centre and the Delhi government since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power in 2014.

Prior to February 2019 judgement, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court had on July 4, 2018, laid down the broad parameters for governance of the national capital. In the landmark verdict, it had unanimously held that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state but clipped the powers of the LG saying he has no “independent decision-making power” and has to act on the aid and advice of the elected government.

It had restricted the jurisdiction of the LG to matters pertaining to land, police and public order and on all other matters, it held that the LG would have to act on the aid and advice of the council of ministers.

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