NEW DELHI: After a resounding victory in the Delhi elections, the next big challenge for the Aam Aadmi Party government will be to urge the Supreme Court to find a lasting solution to the row between the Delhi government and Centre over the jurisdiction to transfer and post bureaucrats in accordance with expertise to streamline governance.
The Supreme Court is likely to hear this issue soon. The AAP government led by Arvind Kejriwal has told the Supreme Court that transfer and posting of bureaucrats is a major bone of contention between the Delhi government and the Centre. The issue gains significance as it virtually cripples various initiatives of the government towards good governance. During a brief hearing on the matter on January 29, senior advocate K.V. Viswanathan, representing Delhi government, contended before a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant that without the transfer powers, it is "commissioning an artist without limb." In February 2019, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered a verdict on six contentious issues on the division of powers between the Delhi government and the Centre represented by Lt Governor (LG). The Delhi government was given powers in three area -- appointment of special public prosecutors or law officers; fixing land revenue rate, which was earlier with the LG; and power to appoint or deal with the electricity commission or board. The Centre was handed over Delhi Anti Corruption Branch (ACB), and the Centre has the power to appoint an enquiry commission. The undecided issue, which was referred to a larger bench, was control over service matters involving transfers and posting of officers. The Delhi government counsel explained in detail the issues which arise out of its inability to transfer officers according to their expertise before the three-judge bench.
"Today, I cannot transfer officer as per expertise, for example an officer having expertise and practical exposure cannot be transferred to the department concerned. I also cannot set up cadre and services (which affects streamlining good governance)", the Delhi government counsel submitted. The Delhi government also cited the difference of opinion in the two-judge division bench, comprising Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan, and urged the top court to resolve this, as the matter has come before a three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice.
Justice Sikri said transfer and posting of secretaries and heads of departments can be done by the LG, while in case of officer of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS) and Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Police Service (DANIPS), the council of ministers will send the file to the LG. Justice Bhushan, however, differed with this opinion, and said under the law, the Delhi government has no power to exercise control over services.