SC to consider Listing Plea of Delhi Government on Services row with Centre

The Supreme Court on Friday told the Delhi government that it would consider listing the plea challenging the central government’s law establishing pre-eminence of the lieutenant governor over the elected dispensation in controlling services in the national capital.

A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud was urged by lawyer Shadan Farasat, appearing for the AAP government, that since the constitution benches are taking up cases, the plea of the Delhi government on the issue of services can also be taken up.

“I have this in mind,” the CJI told Farasat.

On September 27 last year, the top court had ordered that a common compilation of submissions be filed by both the parties in the petition by the Delhi government.

Prior to this, the CJI-led bench had permitted the Delhi government to amend its petition challenging the central government’s ordinance establishing pre-eminence of the lieutenant governor over the elected dispensation in controlling services.

Amending the petition became necessary after the ordinance was replaced by a law.

It had taken note of the submissions of senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi that earlier the challenge was directed against the ordinance which later became a law after it was cleared by the two Houses of Parliament and got presidential assent.

Parliament cleared the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2023, also known as the Delhi Services Bill, that gave the lieutenant governor sweeping control over service matters. After the president gave her assent, the bill became a law.

The top court had earlier referred to a five-judge constitution bench the Delhi government’s plea challenging the Centre’s May 19 ordinance which took away the control over services from the city dispensation and set off a fresh tussle between the two power centres.

The Centre had on May 19 last year promulgated the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023 to create an authority for transfer and posting of Group-A officers in Delhi.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government termed it a “deception” with the Supreme Court verdict on control of services. The matter is still pending in the Supreme Court.

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Before the ordinance was promulgated, a five-judge constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice, in a unanimous verdict, had sought to put an end to the eight-year-old dispute between the Centre and the Delhi government triggered by a 2015 home ministry notification asserting its control over services, holding the National Capital Territory administration is unlike other union territories and has been accorded a ‘sui generis’ (unique) status by the Constitution.

The apex court, in the judgment, had asserted an elected government needs to have control over bureaucrats, failing which the principle of collective responsibility will be adversely affected.

Now, the new law has envisaged a National Capital Civil Service Authority for transfer, posting and disciplinary proceedings against Group-A officers from the Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (Civil) Services (DANICS) cadre.

The chief minister is one of the three members of the authority, while the other two are bureaucrats. The decisions by the authority are to be taken by a majority and, in the event of a dispute, the matter will be referred to the lieutenant governor whose decision will be final.

Transfer and posting of all officers of the Delhi government were under the executive control of the lieutenant governor before the top court verdict of May 11 last year.

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