The ongoing tussle between the elected Aam Aadmi Party and Lieutenant Governor (LG) Najeeb Jung took another sinister turn on Friday, when the Centre issued a notification, which underlined the latter’s position as the “administrative head” of Delhi and that “services” are out of the purview of the State government. In response to the Centre’s notification, an embattled Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, shot back, questioning the constitutionality of the Centre’s notification. The Delhi government also sought the legal opinion of eminent jurists on the matter. Based on such legal opinion the AAP government is set to conduct an emergency sitting of the Delhi Assembly, with the possibility of taking the matter to court.
In addition, the notification from the Centre also stated that the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) “shall not take any cognizance of offences against officers, employees and functionaries of the Central government”. The Centre’s intervention and Jung’s actions in the past week are reminiscent of a political culture, where governors in various states would indulge in political schemes at the Centre’s behest and create obstacles for various opposition governments. Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, one could argue, has conducted his administrative business in a manner that has been eerily similar to past executive appointees under previous Congress-led regimes. The Centre, unfortunately, has explicitly stated its intention.
It was only last <g data-gr-id="34">week,</g> when Jung told Kejriwal that service matters are assigned to the LG. Jung further went on to assert in his press release that the LG alone is competent to approve the transfer and posting of Secretary level officers, in consultation with the Chief Minister. But perhaps most contentious was his claim that the LG has exclusive jurisdiction in his executive capacity. The LG’s press release and the Centre’s notification both defeat the very <g data-gr-id="27">raison</g> d’être of having a democratically-elected government.
The Delhi government, as per law, does not have executive control over the city-state’s police, law and order and land. Now if the Delhi government cannot run the ACB of its own accord, besides appoint officers, then why have a democratically elected government at all? Noted legal experts like Gopal Subramaniam and Sanjay Hegde have questioned the veracity of the Centre’s claims. Many have also argued that in a democratic set up there cannot be two reporting authorities as it would lead to the type of confusion and conflict that the administrative machinery of Delhi has witnessed during the past few days.
Although legal luminaries on both sides of the aisle have interpreted the Constitution’s position on the matter, the AAP government should be allowed to function independently. It is an unnecessary confrontation to say the very least, with precious time slipping away for the State government. It is up to the people to judge the merits or demerits of the AAP government. Although many in the media have billed this recent confrontation as a fight between the AAP and the BJP, one should not lose focus of the larger principle at stake here. It was a tidal wave of popular support which swept Arvind Kejriwal to power. A few months later, however, it is a subtle undercurrent of meddling, which is threatening to ruin his government’s plans to transform Delhi; a city-state, which has become exceedingly difficult to govern. With a democratically elected government, Delhi should be run by its representatives, without undue interference by the Centre.