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Delhi Vs Centre: Supreme Court to constitute a three-judge bench on the petition related to the fragmented decision on control of services

Delhi Vs Centre: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will set up a three-member bench to hear the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s plea after Diwali. This petition has been filed on the contentious issue of who should have control of the administrative services in Delhi. This petition has been filed regarding the fractured decision of the Supreme Court in 2019.

Justice A.K. A two-judge Bench of Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan had on February 14, 2019 recommended to the Chief Justice that a three-judge Bench be set up to decide the issue of control of services in the capital Delhi in view of his fractured decision. Both the judges are now retired.

Justice Bhushan had said that the Delhi government has no power over the administrative services. However, Justice Sikri gave a different verdict. He had said that only the central government can transfer or appoint officers to the top posts of the bureaucracy and the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor will be considered if there is a difference of opinion regarding other bureaucrats.

Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli told senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, that we will have to constitute a bench after Dussehra holidays. The hearing on the petition will take place after the Diwali holidays.

Mehra said that after the decision of the five-judge Constitution Bench, the police, land and public order were under the central government and other matters including services should come under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government.

He said that it is a matter related to the issue of services. The two-judge bench gave different views and the matter is to be referred to the three-judge bench. Since the entire administrative control is now with the Centre, this is an important issue and hinders the ability of the Delhi government to implement its policy. Earlier, on the petitions on six matters related to the long-running tussle between the Center and the Delhi government, the Supreme Court had given a unanimous verdict on five issues besides control of services.

Earlier, the Supreme Court, which was hearing six cases related to the long-running conflict between the Center and the Delhi government, had unanimously passed orders on the remaining five issues, barring control over services. Both the judges had agreed that the Lt Governor would have control over the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), as already notified by the Center and the power to appoint inquiry commissions would also be with the central government.

At the same time, the elected Delhi government will have the power to appoint public prosecutors, decide land revenue matters and appoint or deal with the electricity commission or board, the bench said in the judgment.

The bench unanimously upheld the Centre’s notification that its employees cannot be probed in corruption cases by the ACB, which is part of the Delhi government but controlled by the LG.

After differences of opinion on the issue of control of services, the bench had ordered and said that the matter should be referred to a larger bench and the views expressed by both the judges should be placed before the CJI for constitution of an appropriate bench.

Significantly, in view of the power struggle between the Center and the Delhi government since AAP came to power in 2014, a five-judge Constitution Bench had on July 4, 2018 laid down broad parameters for the governance of the national capital. In its landmark judgment, the bench had unanimously held that Delhi cannot be given the status of a state. The Supreme Court had reduced the powers of the Lieutenant Governor, saying that he does not have “independent decision-making power” and has to act on the aid and advice of the elected government. The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi is once again face to face on this matter.

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