Firing the latest salvo in the heated war of words and press releases, Lieutenant Governor (LG) Najeeb Jung told Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday that service matters are assigned to the LG. Jung further goes 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 is his claim that the LG has exclusive jurisdiction in his executive capacity. If this is indeed the case why have a democratically elected government at all? Hours after the LG cancelled all appointments made by the Kejriwal-led government in the last four days, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia wrote a letter to Jung, asking him which provisions of the Constitution gave him power to directly issue instructions to the government. Jung has also contested AAP government’s instructions to the officials to not route files through his office, saying he has also been vested with <g data-gr-id="25">power</g> to decide on major public policy issues. It was a tidal wave of popular support which swept Arvind Kejriwal into power. However, a few months later it is a subtle undercurrent of meddling, which is threatening to ruin his government’s plans to transform Delhi; a <g data-gr-id="30">city state</g>, which has become exceedingly difficult to govern.
According to former solicitor general Indira Jaising, Jung’s opinion does not hold any water, at least legally speaking. To quote Jaising, “the law requires the Lieutenant General to act in his own discretion, and is bound to exercise his functions in accordance with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister”. Noted legal experts like Gopal Subramaniam have further questioned and interrogated the veracity of Jung’s claims. In a democratic set up there can not 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. If the Lieutenant Governor serves at the discretion of the President then it is imperative that he report to the President and not become an extra-constitutional authority onto himself.
This is the sort of arbitrary autocracy that India has long left behind and would perhaps not like to go back to. Like a feuding general Jung has gone to the President. It remains to be seen what President Pranab Mukherjee’s adjudication on the matter will be. The law and the Constitution are very clear on this though. Provided that in the case of difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and the council of ministers on any matter, the Lieutenant Governor shall refer it to the President for a decision and act according to the decision given thereon by the President. Additionally the legal position in regard to the scope of discretionary powers of the Governor is no longer res <g data-gr-id="39">integra</g>, i.e. an entirely new or untouched matter either. Given that the law does not support his claims, one is not sure why Jung wants to play bully and autocrat all of a sudden. Is there more to this than meets the eye?