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Never-ending tussle

On Saturday, the Aam Aadmi Party-led government urged the Delhi High Court to issue orders that will restrain Lieutenant Governor-appointed Anti-Corruption Bureau chief MK Meena from entering his office and “interfering with the functioning of the anti-graft body”. In an application to the court, the city government alleged that the Centre appointed ACB official has been “misusing his powers to browbeat and threaten officials of the ACB and Vigilance Department”. What’s worse, however, is that Meena has been accused of pressurising officers from the ACB to transfer all cases of corruption involving the police personnel from the ACB to the Delhi police. Such allegations of impropriety are in complete contravention to the Delhi High Court’s judgement last month. 

In dismissing the bail application of a Delhi constable, who was charged with taking bribes under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, the Delhi High Court argued that since the “functions of the Delhi police personnel substantially and essentially relate to the affairs of the GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi)”, the ACB of the Delhi government has the “jurisdiction to entertain and act on a complaint under the PC Act”. As per news reports, the Judge relied on the provision of divisions of power between Centre and States (as stated in Schedule VII of the Constitution) to rule on the elected executive’s supremacy over the LG. However, soon after the apex court asked the Delhi government to reply to the Centre’s plea for a stay of the high court order holding its notification, which limits power of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), as ‘suspect’. 

In addition to these allegations, the fact remains that as per law, the ACB is headed by an Additional Commissioner of Police, who, in this case, is AAP government-appointed SS Yadav. There is a sanctioned post of Joint Commissioner of Police in the anti-graft agency. It is rather apparent that through such an order, the Centre has indulged in a “<g data-gr-id="22">malafide</g> exercise of power”. Our editorials in the past have often argued that if the Delhi government cannot appoint its own officers, then why have a democratically elected government at all? Admittedly, according to constitutional provisions set for the city-state, a matter pertaining to public order and police fall under the Centre’s jurisdiction. 

The tussle, however, highlights the current anomaly prevalent in the current administrative set-up. If an elected legislature is not vested with executive powers, then elections to the Delhi Assembly seem rather pointless. The AAP government is attempting to address this very anomaly through its application to the court. The anti-graft agency has been in existence for the past 40 years. Until the AAP government began to use the agency to effectively tackle corruption in Delhi, there was no territorial tug-of-war between the Centre and State 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.
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