‘Centre negating federalism’: AAP to SC

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Counsel pointed out that earlier five-judge bench verdicts did not give any roadmap, whether the Union or the Delhi government will have the competence in connection with the dispute….reports Asian Lite News

The Supreme Court on Tuesday commenced hearing on the dispute between the Central and Delhi governments in connection with control over administrative services, with the latter alleging that the Centre has been “negating” federalism by taking away its power of transfers and postings.

Citing the 2018 judgment, a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana queried Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, representing the Centre, whether it had said that the Assembly was “redundant” and the Lt Governor can exercise power over legislative functions.

The Centre contended that a constitution bench should hear the dispute. Counsel pointed out that earlier five-judge bench verdicts did not give any roadmap, whether the Union or the Delhi government will have the competence in connection with the dispute.

The Centre also sought a joint hearing of two separate petitions filed by the Delhi government – one, in connection with the control over services and the other, challenging the constitutional validity of the amended GNCTD Act, 2021 and the Transaction of Business Rules. The Centre insisted that they are prima facie correlated.

The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, asked senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Delhi government, whether it should pass an empty order in connection with control over services, since the validity of the amended Act was also pending before it.

Singhvi said the question was whether the Delhi government was denuded of its power to effect transfers and postings of public servants. He pointed at the split verdict where one judge on the bench had said that it did not have the power, and the other said it can enjoy the authority for officers below joint secretary rank.

Contending the Centre was negating federalism by taking away the power of transfers and postings, he said that nobody disputed Delhi’s powers for years, but now a Chief Minister of an elected legislature is answerable to the office of the Lt Governor, instead of the public through the Assembly.

The bench took note of the submissions of the counsel for the Centre and Delhi government and listed both the petitions together on April 27. It asked the Centre to file its response on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the amended GNCTD Act, in 10 days.

A two-judge bench, headed by Justice A.K. Sikri and comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, had, in February 2019, delivered a split verdict on the question of powers of the Delhi government and the Centre over services and referred the matter to a 3-judge bench.

Justice Bhushan held that the Delhi government had no power over services, while Justice Sikri, took the middle path.

Justice Sikri concluded that files on the transfers and postings of officers in the rank of Secretary, Head of Department and Joint Secretary could be directly submitted to the Lt Governor, while Justice Bhushan said Entry 41 of the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, dealing with State Public Services, was outside the purview of the Delhi Legislative Assembly.

Justice Sikri said for DANICS (Delhi Andaman Nicobar Islands Civil Service) cadre, the files could be processed through the Council of Ministers led by the Chief Minister to the Lt Governor. He had said the situation in Delhi was “peculiar.”

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