The Delhi government has control over all bureaucrats, including IAS officers, in administration of services, except in areas outside its legislative ambit – that is, land, police and law and order.
With the unanimous verdict of the five-judge Constitution Bench, the L-G cannot issue orders directly to the officers except on reserved subjects, and the elected government has the power of transfers and postings.
What did SC say in its judgement?
While giving the verdict, the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said he does not agree with the 2019 judgement of Justice Ashok Bhushan that Delhi has no power over services. The Constitution Bench has said that ‘‘executive administration can only extend to matters which fall outside the scope of the legislative assembly...and it cannot mean administration over entire NCT Delhi. Otherwise, the purpose of having a separate elected body in Delhi will be rendered futile. A democratically elected government shall have control over its officers. If a democratically elected government is not allowed to control its officers and hold them to account, then its responsibility towards the legislature and public is diluted. If officers are not responding to the government, the collective responsibility is diluted. If officers feel they are insulated from the elected government, they feel they are not accountable."
The verdict is seen as a huge victory for the ruling AAP dispensation in its festering feud with the Centre. The Constitution Bench has put an end to the eight-year-old dispute between the Centre and the Delhi government triggered by a 2015 home ministry notification asserting its control over services. This led to frequent run-ins between the AAP government and the Centre's point man, the lieutenant governor.
Centre must exercise its powers within constitutional boundaries: SC
The top court said in the spirit of cooperative federalism, the Centre must exercise its powers within the boundaries created by the Constitution. “The National Capital Territory of Delhi, having a sui generis federal model, must be allowed to function in the domain charted for it by the Constitution. The Union and NCTD share a unique federal relationship. It does not mean that NCTD is subsumed in the unit of the Union merely because it is not a ‘State',” the bench said.
The court held the executive power of the Delhi government is “co-extensive with its legislative power” and it also covers all matters with respect to which it has the power to legislate.
The AAP, which has been up in arms against the Centre for being shorn of the power to exercise control even over subjects on which it is empowered to legislate, hailed the verdict.
AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal termed the order a “victory of democracy” while his party said it was a “tight slap” on the mission to topple state governments across the country.
Kejriwal also expressed his “heartfelt thanks” to the Supreme Court for “doing justice to the people of Delhi” and said the pace of development will increase manifold.
AAP Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha called the verdict a “landmark decision” and said it sends a stern message to officers.
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