Under whose orders will the bureaucrats of Delhi run? SC sent power struggle to Constitution bench

The Union and AAP governments are locked in a battle for the control over bureaucrats in the national capital

The Union and AAP governments are locked in a battle for the control over bureaucrats in the national capital
The Union and AAP governments are locked in a battle for the control over bureaucrats in the national capital

5-judge bench to decide Centre-Delhi row

The Supreme Court on Friday referred to a Constitution bench on the power tussle between the Centre and the Delhi government in connection with control over the administrative services.

The top court listed the matter for hearing before a 5-judge bench on May 11 for arguments about who should control the services.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana clarified that the issue is only related to services, and it will be adjudicated by the Constitution bench.

The Centre had argued that Delhi, the nation’s capital and a sprawling metropolis, should be under its control. Delhi could not be left to the “small mercies and smaller resources” of a State legislature, the Centre reasoned.

In 2018, a Constitution bench ruled that police, land and public order are the domain of the Centre, and the rest is under the Delhi government.

The Centre had moved an application seeking to refer the matter to a Constitution bench for a holistic interpretation of Article 239AA of the Constitution.

“The applicant submits issues involve a substantial question of law requiring interpretation of a provision of the Constitution and the key issues involved in the present matter cannot be determined unless the same is decided by a constitution bench in terms of Article 145 (3) of the Constitution,” said the Centre’s application.

The CJI, who read out the order in open court, said the court did not “deem it necessary to revisit” any other issues, between the Centre and the Delhi government, which had already been settled in the earlier judgment of the court in 2018.

However, reading the order, Chief Justice Ramana pointed out that the 2018 judgment had not specifically dealt with the issue of ‘services’.

The top court had on April 28 reserved its verdict on the Centre’s plea to refer the issue of control over bureaucracy in Delhi to a Constitution bench after hearing Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the Centre and senior advocate A M Singhvi on behalf of the Delhi government.

“We will consider and take a call as early as possible,” the bench – which also included Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli — had said.

In case, a Constitution bench was constituted, it would like the hearing to conclude by May 15, the Bench had said.

Singhvi had opposed the demand for referring the issue to a five-judge Bench, saying “This court is not here to refer every time the slightest thing is pointed out. How does this matter, if there were three or five judges. It is not about why not, it is about why.”

Maintaining that there was no ambiguity in the 2018 Constitution bench judgment, he had said, if there was any, it can be decided by the present bench.

However, Mehta had insisted that it should be considered by a larger bench as earlier judgments didn’t give “any roadmap” to decide if the Centre or the Delhi government was competent to deal with the issue under dispute.

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