In a major setback for the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that control of Commissions of Inquiry and Anti-Corruption Bureau lies with the central government.
A cloud of confusion, however, still prevails over services, which was a core issue in the case between Delhi government and the Centre.
Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan, in their verdict, differed only on services. The matter would now be referred to a larger judge bench. For the time being, services would continue to be under the central government.
This big blow for the Arvind Kejriwal government comes on its fourth anniversary.
Justice Sikri, who read out his judgment first, held that only the central government has the power to form a commission of inquiry, which has been a major flashpoint in the past. Two panels formed by the AAP government to probe into the DDCA affairs and the CNG fitness scam had been deemed to be illegal by the Centre, triggering a war of words.
The judge also gave the Centre control of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, which was key to the AAP’s anti-corruption plank.
In the matter of services, Sikri held that transfers and posting of officers at joint secretary level and above would be handled by the central government whereas the others can be controlled by Delhi government.
Justice Ashok Bhushan agreed with Justice Sikri on all issues, except services. He ruled that services in total should be handled by the central government.
The bench also held that the electricity circle rates and work under the Electricity Act would be now under the Delhi government.
Decision on minimum rate of agricultural land will be with the Delhi government, but it is still not a win for AAP as the court has ruled that in case there is a difference of opinion with LG on this issue, then the matter would be referred to the President.
The bench has ruled that power to appoint special public prosecutors would remain with the Delhi government.
A bench of justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had on November 1 last year reserved its verdict on the petitions challenging the notifications issued by the Centre and the Delhi government.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had been at loggerheads with incumbent Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Anil Baijal and his predecessor Najeeb Jung over the power structure in the capital city. Kejriwal had accused both of them of preventing the functioning of his government at the behest of the BJP-led central government.
In a verdict in July last year, the Supreme Court held that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state but clipped the powers of the L-G. However, the issue of control over “services” remained an issue of contention between the LG and the Delhi government.
On September 19, last year, the Centre had told the apex court that administration of Delhi cannot be left to the Delhi government alone and emphasised that it has an “extraordinary” position by virtue of being the country’s capital.
The Centre had told court that a five-judge constitution bench of the apex court had categorically held that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state.
The Centre had contended that one of the basic issues was that whether the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) has the legislative and executive powers so far as ‘services’ were concerned.
It said that the national capital houses several institutions of vital importance like Parliament and the Supreme Court and foreign diplomats also resides here.
The Aam Aadmi Party government, on the other hand, maintained that it has little say in the national capital’s governance despite being voted to power by its people. Until last year, it was seeking full statehood for Delhi.