The Supreme Court of India today announced its verdict on the longstanding power tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre over control of the city’s bureaucrats.
The apex court ruled that the control of the city’s bureaucrats lies with the elected government of Delhi and not with the Lieutenant Governor, who represents the Centre. The court’s decision comes as a major victory for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, which has been at loggerheads with the Centre since it came to power in Delhi in 2015.
The power struggle began when the Delhi government passed a legislation in 2015, seeking to curb the powers of the Lieutenant Governor and give more autonomy to the city’s elected government. However, the Centre had rejected the legislation, arguing that the Lieutenant Governor was the ultimate authority in the city’s administration. Delhi government to have control over all services except law and order and land.LG shall exercise powers under the administrative role as entrusted by the president. Executive administration can only extend to matters which fall outside the legislative assembly but is limited to the powers entrusted by President and it cannot mean administration over the entire NCTD, otherwise the purpose of having a separate elected body in Delhi will be rendered futile, the top court said. It is ideal to hold that democratically elected govt shall have control over its officers, it ruled.
The AAP government had then taken the matter to court, and after a prolonged legal battle, the Supreme Court had reserved its verdict in December 2021.
In its verdict, the court said that the elected government of Delhi must have the power to take decisions on the posting, transfer and promotion of bureaucrats. It also added that the Lieutenant Governor must be kept informed of all decisions taken by the Delhi government, but cannot exercise his discretion to override them.
The court’s decision is seen as a major boost for the AAP government, which has been pushing for more autonomy in the city’s administration. The party has been demanding control over several key departments, including the police and land, which are currently under the Centre’s purview.
The verdict is also expected to have wider implications for the power dynamic between elected governments and the Centre in other Union Territories of India.
The Delhi government, meanwhile, has welcomed the court’s decision, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal calling it a “huge victory for democracy”. The Centre, on the other hand, is yet to issue a statement on the matter.
The power tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre has been a long-standing issue, and the Supreme Court’s verdict is expected to provide some clarity on the issue. However, with the Centre still holding control over several key departments, the battle for more autonomy is likely to continue.