Centre files review plea in SC as battle to control Delhi services intensifies, Kejriwal vows to challenge ordinance

Centre sought a review of judgment which ruled in favour of the AAP government and Arvind Kejriwal announced moving the apex court against the central ordinance brought in to "overturn" the verdict.
Centre files review plea in SC as battle to control Delhi services intensifies, Kejriwal vows to challenge ordinance

New Delhi | The bitter tussle over control of administrative services in Delhi has again reached the Supreme Court as the Centre sought a review of its judgment which ruled in favour of the AAP government and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced moving the apex court against a central ordinance that he alleged was brought in to "overturn" the verdict.

On Friday, the Centre promulgated the ordinance creating a National Capital Civil Service Authority to deal with service conditions, transfer and posting of officials, seen as a move to wrest back control after the May 11 apex court ruling that the Delhi government has legislative and executive powers over services except for public order, police and land.

Kejriwal on Saturday alleged the ordinance was "unconstitutional" and a "direct challenge" to the Supreme Court. It's an "insult" to and contempt of the apex court, the Aam Aadmi Party chief claimed, even as the BJP asserted that the measure was in consonance with the Constitution and in line with the top court's observations.

Central government sources said it was forced to promulgate the ordinance because of the Delhi government's regular "instigation" and "acrimonious attacks" on the Centre and the city's unique character.

Under its counter-offensive, the Centre has also filed the review plea in the apex court, contending that May 11 judgement ignores the fact that the functioning of the government in the capital "affects the nation as a whole", and has sought an open hearing.

"It is submitted that central government is administered by the people of the entire country who have a vital and preponderant interest in the governance of the capital of the entire country," it said.

The verdict suffers from an error as it has not dealt with the arguments of the Centre that the Constitution has never contemplated a separate service cadre for Union territories, said the plea.

The Centre's review plea contends that judgement proceeds without appreciating that the nominee of the President, the Lieutenant Governor or the Central Government, both are also "manifestations of democracy" when compared to the elected government of Delhi.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, had given a unanimous verdict on the dispute between the Centre and the Delhi government triggered by a 2015 home ministry notification asserting its control over services, holding the National Capital Territory administration is unlike other Union Territories and has been "accorded a 'sui generis' (unique) status" by the Constitution.

After the frequent run-ins with the Centre-appointed Lieutenant Governor during the last eight years, the apex court order which clipped the wings of the LG and gave primacy to the elected government had come as a shot in the arm for the Kejriwal dispensation but it now faces another legal and legislative battle.

"The Centre's ordinance on services matter is unconstitutional and against democracy. We will approach the Supreme Court against it. The Centre brought the ordinance to overturn the SC verdict on services matter just hours after the apex court has shut for vacation," Kejriwal told a press conference.

Calling the ordinance, which has to be ratified by Parliament within six months, an attack on the federal structure, the AAP convener appealed to opposition parties not to let the related bill pass in Rajya Sabha and said he will also meet with leaders of these parties.

"I will also go to people, door to door, in Delhi and AAP will also take to the streets against the ordinance because it snatches powers of Delhi people," he said and alleged it was a ploy to stop his government's work.

Hitting back, BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said Kejriwal's ideology is against the Constitution and is anarchic.

Citing the verdict of the Constitution bench, Bhatia said it had said that if "Parliament enacts a law granting executive power on any subject", then the power of the Lieutenant Governor can be modified accordingly.

The ordinance is in public interest, he claimed, accusing the Kejriwal government of harassing and intimidating officers to suppress facts related to the "liquor scam" and the alleged irregularities in expenditure on the chief minister's residence.

"You read neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court judgement. You think whatever the tyrant Arvind Kejriwal says is above the country's Constitution," Bhatia said at a press conference.

Noting that Delhi is a Union Territory, he referred to Article 239AA to assert Parliament's power over the region. Delhi is not "Arvind Territory" and it will be run by the Constitution not his whims, the BJP leader, also a lawyer, said.

Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said the ordinance was brought to ensure “transparency and accountability”.

“We had to bring in the ordinance because, within a few days of the Supreme Court judgement, the Delhi government began flexing its muscles. It transferred 2010 batch IAS officer Y K Rajashekhar, who was probing the irregularities in the Sheesh Mahal,” he said at a press conference in Patna.

The allusion was to the alleged huge expenditure for the renovation of the official residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Prasad noted that the Supreme Court had cited the absence of any particular law with regard to the administration in Delhi, under Schedule 2 of the Constitution.

Making light of the AAP leader's claim that the Centre deliberately brought the ordinance at a time when the Supreme Court is on a summer break so that a legal challenge to it could not be pursued quickly, Bhatia said the vacation bench is there.

He dared the Delhi government to move against the ordinance as quickly as Monday to test its legal and constitutional validity.

The sources noted that when Delhi was declared the National Capital Territory (NCT) in 1991 by a Constitutional Amendment, the concept was made clear that since Delhi was the seat of the Union Government, there cannot be dual authority and responsibility Reminding that ?Delhi hosts a large number of diplomatic missions and international organisations, they said the central government control ensures effective coordination with foreign governments and facilitates the smooth functioning of these diplomatic entities.

The practice is the same the world over, the sources said citing Washington DC, Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Canadian capital Ottawa.

Delhi minister Atishi said the Centre's ordinance shows that "Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scared of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal" and the power of honest politics.

"They are scared that if he (Kejriwal) gets power, he will do extraordinary work for Delhi," she said.

The ordinance is a "brazen assault" on the democratic principles of the country and will be struck down by the Supreme Court, she claimed.

In a tweet in Hindi, Punjab Chief Minister and AAP leader Bhagwant Mann said, "If there was a provision for punishment for the murderers of democracy in the Indian Constitution, then the entire BJP could have been hanged..." According to the ordinance, the National Capital Civil Service Authority will comprise the chief minister of the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi as its chairperson, along with the chief secretary and the principal home secretary, who will be the member secretary to the authority.

"Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, the National Capital Civil Service Authority shall have the responsibility to recommend the transfers and postings of all the Group 'A' officers and officers of DANICS serving in the affairs of the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi but not officers serving in connection with any subject matter," the ordinance read.

All matters under the authority will be decided by the majority of votes of the members present and voting.

In case of a difference of opinion, the decision of the Lt Governor is final.

Death threat: Delhi Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj submits police complaint against CS

New Delhi | Delhi Services Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj has submitted a complaint to police accusing Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar of issuing a death threat to him, officials said on Saturday.

"We have received a complaint in connection with this and we are looking into the matter," a senior police officer said.

Bharadwaj on Friday had accused Kumar of issuing the death threat to him and said he has apprised Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena about the matter.

The minister's allegation comes amid a brewing discord between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) dispensation and bureaucrats.

Following his meeting with Saxena at the Raj Niwas on Friday, Bharadwaj told reporters that the lieutenant governor (LG) has assured him of action.

He had also said, "On May 16, the meeting of the Civil Services Board was scheduled and we were waiting for the chief secretary till 9:30 pm since he was busy. We sent him WhatsApp messages and he said he will come." Bharadwaj had alleged that "at 9.30 pm when he came to my office, he threatened to kill me".

"We have informed LG sir about the matter in clear words. He has said he will take strict action. We want that strict action should be taken against Naresh Kumar," he had said.

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