Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday the Supreme Court’s ruling over the fight for control of Delhi does not add or take away from the powers of the state government and the Centre even as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accused the Lieutenant Governor and bureaucrats of disrespecting Wednesday’s order.
“There are several issues which had directly not been commented upon, but by implication, there is some indication of those issues. However, unless issues of importance are flagged, discussed and a specific opinion is rendered, none can assume that silence implies an opinion in favour of one or the other,” Jaitley said in a Facebook post on Supreme Court’s observations.
“Secondly, the Supreme Court has held categorically that Delhi cannot compare itself at par with other States and, therefore, any presumption that the administration of the UT cadre of services has been decided in favour of the Delhi government would be wholly erroneous,” the minister added.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra on Wednesday said the real powers of governance of Delhi rest with the elected representatives and the Lieutenant Governor is bound to act on the aid and advice by the council of ministers.
The top court said in the case of difference of opinion with the council of ministers, the L-G has to refer the matter to the President, whose decision will be a binding. However, the court added that the provision under Article 239 does not mean the L-G can refer every matter to the President.
It also held that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state and laid down broad parameters for the governance of the national capital, which has witnessed a bitter power tussle between the Centre and Delhi government since the AAP came to power in 2015.
Jaitley said the judgement emphasises at the importance of elected state government but as Delhi is a Union Territory, its position makes its powers subservient to the central government.
“Delhi is not a state and, therefore, there could be no assumption that powers which belong to state government also belongs to the elected government of the Union Territory,” he added.
“It has been specifically held by the Supreme Court that it is crystal clear that by no stretch of imagination, NCT of Delhi can be accorded the status of a state under the present constitutional scheme and the status of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi is not that of a Governor of a State, rather he remains an administrator, in a limited sense, working with the designation of Lieutenant Governor.”
Contempt of court
Earlier in the day, Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said L-G Anil Baijal must follow the Supreme Court’s orders and that the refusal of bureaucrats to follow the AAP government’s directives amounted to a contempt of the court. Sisodia also said that they are seeking legal opinion on the matter.
The AAP government issued an order on Wednesday withdrawing all powers of transfer and posting of IAS officers and other employees from the L-G, the chief secretary and heads of departments and made chief minister Arvind Kejriwal the approving authority.
However, the services department refused to follow the order issued by Sisodia, saying the Supreme Court did not abolish the notification issued in 2016 which made the Union ministry of home affairs the authority for transfers and postings.
They said it was “legally incorrect” and that the issue will be taken up by the regular bench of the Supreme Court.
“The chief secretary has written to me saying the services department will not follow the orders. If they are not going to abide by it and the transfer files will still be seen by the L-G then it will amount to contempt of the constitution bench,” Sisodia said while speaking to reporters.
“How will the government function if the orders of the constitution bench are openly flouted in the country? This is in contempt of the court’s order,” Sisodia said.
“The L-G will receive files regarding land, police and law and order and if he signs files other than those he will be disrespecting the court’s order,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader added.
Sisodia said that the Delhi high court had issued an order against the AAP government two years ago and the party approached the Supreme Court against it but did not disrespect the lower court’s directives.
“We appeal to the Centre and the L-G that they must cooperate and let the Delhi government do its job,” he said.
(Witth agency inputs)
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