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Delhi duel far from over

Delhi duel   far from over

Though the Supreme Court in its Wednesday ruling on the power tussle in Delhi has made it clear that that apart from three reserved areas of land, law & order, and Delhi police, all other subjects come under the purview of the state government, the turf war between the state government and the Centre seems far from over. In a Facebook post, Union Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday claimed that the SC ruling has not touched upon several issues on which there are ambiguities in view of Delhi's status as a Union Territory. A key issue on which there is still a conflict between the Delhi government and the Centre is the power of posting and transfer of IAS officers and other government staff. The Centre believes that the power rests with the Union Home Ministry while the AAP government in Delhi is of the view that apart from the three reserved areas, all other departments come under the jurisdiction of the elected government of Delhi. Soon after the SC verdict on Wednesday, a controversy cropped up on the issue and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal promptly sought time from the LG for a meeting to sort out the differences of opinion between the Delhi government and the Centre in view of the SC ruling. Kejriwal's reaction came after the services department refused to obey Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia's order claiming the power of posting and transfer of Delhi government officers. In view of the SC ruling, the AAP government on Wednesday made Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal the approving authority for all powers of transfer and posting of IAS officers and other employees. Earlier, these powers were exercised by the LG, Chief Secretary and heads of departments, which effectively eroded the control of the AAP government on the government officers and staff, who in turn routinely refused to follow the government orders, leading to tension between the political executive and the bureaucrats. "The Chief Secretary has written to me saying the services department will not follow the orders. If they are not going to abide by it and the transfer files will still be seen by the L-G, it will amount to contempt of the constitution bench," Sisodia said. The services department refused to follow the order issued by Sisodia, saying the Supreme Court did not abolish the notification issued in 2016 which made the Union Ministry of Home Affairs the authority for transfers and postings. Sisodia also said that his government is seeking legal opinion on the matter. Jaitley also commented on the issue in his Facebook post. He said the Supreme Court has held categorically that Delhi cannot compare itself at par with other States and, therefore, any presumption that the administration of the UT cadre of services has been decided in favour of the Delhi government would be wholly erroneous. Jaitley said the judgement emphasises at the importance of elected state government but as Delhi is a Union Territory, its position makes its powers subservient to the central government.

Clearly, the Centre is not ready to let things go even after the SC verdict has clearly delineated the powers of the Delhi government and the Centre. The power of transfer and posting is important for the Delhi government in order to ensure that its policies and plans are effectively implemented. As of now, these officers do not follow the instructions of the Delhi government in letter and spirit as the power of posting and transfer rests with the LG or the Chief Secretary. In the recent months after the alleged assault on the Chief Secretary by AAP MLAs in mid-February, the relationship between the political executive and the bureaucrats completely broke down, with officers and general staff refusing to meet the ministers and attend meetings called by them. In the face of continued noncooperation by the officials, the AAP government was not able to carry out any work. Most of its ambitious plans and projects remained a non-starter as the bureaucrats would not allow the files to move. Worse, most of these initiatives were getting stuck at the LG office.

The root cause of the unending saga of conflict and confrontation between the Delhi government and the Centre is the special status of Delhi, which is both the Union Territory and the state with limited powers. Since it's a Union Territory, the Centre has some definite powers in running the territory and it does not want to give up those powers. The role of the Centre assumes more importance in view of the fact that Delhi is also the national capital with strategic significance. Any government in Delhi can function smoothly only when it recognises the importance of the Centre in matters related to Delhi.

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