Delhi-Centre power row: Major win for AAP govt

Delhi-Centre power row: Major win for AAP govt

One-liner: In a major win for the AAP govt, the SC on Thursday in a unanimous verdict ruled that the Delhi govt has legislative and executive powers over services except for public order, police and land.

Refused to agree with 2019 judgment: Asserting that an elected govt needs to have control over the administration, a five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, said the Union territory of Delhi has a unique character and refused to agree with the 2019 judgment of Justice Ashok Bhushan that the Delhi govt has no power over the issue of services.

Federal system: The primacy of the Centre in administrative issues would abrogate the federal system and the principle of representative democracy it said, adding if services are excluded from the legislative and executive domain, then ministers would be excluded from controlling civil servants.

Basic structure: Democracy and federalism are part of the basic structure of the Constitution, the CJI said while reading out the judgment in a packed courtroom.

Collective responsibility: The order also said if officers stop reporting to ministers then the principle of collective responsibility is affected and added that in a democratic form of governance, the real power of administration must rest on the elected arm of govt.

  • The bench said the Union govt’s power in matters where both the Centre and States can legislate is limited to ensure that the governance is not taken over by the Central govt

Legal issues: The Constitution bench was set up to hear the legal issue concerning the scope of legislative and executive powers of the Centre and the National Capital Territory govt over control of services in Delhi.

Split verdict: The plea moved by the Delhi govt arises out of a split verdict of Feb 14, 2019, in which a two-judge bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, both now retired, had recommended to the CJI that a three-judge bench be set up to finally decide the issue of control of services in the national capital.

  • Justice Bhushan had ruled that the Delhi govt had no power at all over administrative services, while Justice Sikri had made a distinction

Difference of opinion: He had said the transfer or posting of officers in the top echelons of the bureaucracy (joint director and above) can only be done by the Centre and the lieutenant governor’s view will prevail in case of a difference of opinion on matters related to other bureaucrats.

Bound by advice of elected govt: In a 2018 judgment, a five-judge Constitution bench had unanimously held that the Delhi LG was bound by the aid and advice of the elected govt, and both needed to work harmoniously with each other. 

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