Officers Resist, Govt Threatens Them With Contempt NoticeAlokKNMishra @timesgroup.com
A day after the Supreme Court ruled that executive powers, except for law and order, police and land, were vested in the elected government, the jostling for supremacy in Delhi escalated on Thursday with the Aam Aadmi Party government taking on bureaucrats. Following the court verdict, the Delhi government said chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, and not the lieutenant governor, was the approving authority on the transfers and posting of officers from the IAS and other cadres. With the officers refusing to accept the new protocol, the state government threatened to file contempt of court cases if they did not follow its orders.
The wrangling is likely to escalate on Friday as the AAP government is keen to issue fresh orders regarding the implementation of public welfare schemes. Kejriwal is scheduled to meet the LG at 3pm on Friday.
In a move aimed at underlining the new equations, Kejriwal wrote a letter to LG Anil Baijal on Thursday claiming that the executive powers related to ‘services’, that is, the bureaucracy, lay with the council of ministers. “I am sure LG would never like to knowingly commit contempt of SC,” the CM remarked.
He added that the Union home ministry’s notification of May 2015 giving the LG control over transfer and postings of bureaucrats “has not been quashed specifically, which shall now be done by the Division Bench of SC. However, the said notification becomes infructuous in the light of such clear orders of SC”.
Union minister Arun Jaitley took on these issues in a blog, saying that the government in Delhi, being that of a Union territory, was subservient to the central government, with the Supreme Court categorical that Delhi wasn’t on a par with other states. “Any presumption that the administration of the UT cadre of services has been decided in favour of Delhi Government would be wholly erroneous,” Jaitley wrote.
Kejriwal, Sisodia to meet LG Baijal today
AAP’s Delhi spokesperson, Saurabh Bharadwaj, swiftly remonstrated, “Is it not a fact that the central government argued that Delhi was a centrally administered territory with the elected government holding no powers? Can you deny that the Centre’s arguments were rejected by the Supreme Court?”
Earlier, Kejriwal took to Twitter to advise the officers “to respect and obey the SC order because open defiance of the SC order would invite serious consequences which will be in no one’s interest”. The CM referred to the possibility of a difference of opinion on this and other issues in his letter to the LG later in the day, and wrote, “In case you have contrary views on any of the issues, kindly do let me know. If you so desire, myself and my cabinet colleagues can come over for a discussion.”
The Delhi government has interpreted Wednesday’s judgment to mean that it holds the power to post and transfer officers across departments because the SC “acknowledges that the elected government has powers over all subjects, including services, but excluding land, public order and police”.
Within hours of the Supreme Court judgment on Wednesday, deputy CM Manish Sisodia, who is also the minister in charge of services, had issued an order to the department of services for directions to be forwarded on the chief minister and the ministers becoming the competent authority for transfer/posting of IAS and other officers. The services department refused to follow the order pointing that the notification of the Union home ministry on May 21, 2015, and Delhi high court’s August 4, 2016, order asserting the LG’s primacy in matters of ‘services’ have not yet been stayed or quashed by Wednesday’s Supreme Court verdict.
Top bureaucrats reiterated that the government’s order on internal transfers and postings was contrary to law and could not be implemented. “The matter of services is yet to be decided. The Division Bench of SC will decide under whose purview services falls,” a senior officer emphasised.
It was in this background that Kejriwal advised the officers to “respect and obey” the latest court order. Sisodia re-issued the directive on Thursday to the secretary of the department of services. “If the department does not issue an order regarding this, it will lead to a case of contempt of SC against the secretary, services. The officer will face disciplinary proceedings,” Sisodia said.
Kejriwal sought an appointment with the LG on Thursday, apparently to seek support in implementing the SC verdict. However, He and Sisodia have been given time on Friday to meet Baijal.