The stand-off between the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi Government is unfortunate. The latest trigger is the control over services. Following the long-awaited Supreme Court order giving the Delhi Government control over services other than the reserved subjects of land, law and order and police, the Kejriwal Government with supersonic speed transferred the secretary in charge of services without waiting even for the written order to be delivered and its contents studied by the Lt. Governor of Delhi VK Saxena. The officer was sought to be humiliated, called corrupt and a purported complaint was produced from an NGO to make all manner of charges against him. The officer, in turn, said he was concerned about the safety of various sensitive files, including those dealing with the inquiry into the Rs45 crore that the PWD allegedly lavished on the construction of Kejriwal’s mansion, the on-going liquor excise scam, etc. A day later, charges and counter-charges appeared in newspapers with the AAP ministers blaming the bureaucrats for obstructing the 'good work' they wanted to do for the people of the capital. The fact that the apex court had also transferred the control of the Class-I IAS officers to the Delhi Government was, to say the least, surprising. Delhi is a B-category State and the Union Home Ministry is the designated cadre management authority for all-India Class–I services such as the IPS and the IAS.
Anyway, even before the jubilations in the Kejriwal Government over getting the power to write the CRs of the senior IAS and other officers courtesy the Supreme Court ended, the Centre intervened. On Friday evening, through an ordinance, it virtually reversed the SC judgement, restoring the status quo ante and appointing a three-member services board to be presided over by the Delhi Chief Minister to decide on all service matters. Since the other two members would be the Chief Secretary and Principal Home Secretary of the Delhi Government, the AAP claimed that the Centre would exercise actual control. Predictably, Kejriwal is seething with anger, claiming the ordinance is an insult to the Supreme Court and that it is for the latter to set aside the ordinance. The short point is that the whimsical way Kejriwal has handled the top officers of the Delhi Government has created a strong backlash against him. A couple of years ago the then Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash was summoned at midnight to the CM’s house where a few party MLAs had sought to rough him up because he wouldn’t release ads claiming the AAP had given corruption-free governance. Summoning the senior-most officer at midnight itself was totally unwarranted, especially when the matter concerned an ad in praise of the party in power. But then Kejriwal’s maverick ways are now part of the official folklore in Delhi.
On the other hand, it must be said that the Centre has been less than helpful in allowing the popularly elected government in the national capital to work as per its own agenda and priorities. It has sought to create roadblocks at different times, partly because of the provocative manner in which Kejriwal tends to turn every minor act into a huge and extraordinary achievement of the AAP Government. The case in point is the outlandish claims made day and night about the great strides in the field of education and health. The truth is somewhat blander. There is more hype and propaganda than actual achievement in either field. In fact, the student population in Delhi Government schools has actually come down due to the systematic weeding out of poorly-performing students in pre-board classes. Yet, this has not prevented the AAP from crying from housetops how it had transformed the education and health scene in the national capital. Like it or not, this sort of 24x7 blaring of largely false propaganda grates on the ears of rival politicians, suggesting as if they had done nothing in Delhi while in power. Meanwhile, whether the Supreme Court which is now on vacation intervenes in the ordinance matter is not known, though the Parliament is fully authorized to expand or constrict the ambit of powers of the Delhi Government. The ding-dong battle between the BJP-led Centre and the AAP Government in Delhi should not unnecessarily drag the higher judiciary into it. It is a political slugfest. The higher judiciary should avoid going beyond its limited role of interpreting the relevant laws. Nothing more.
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