Delhi Government and the Centre’s dispute over Control of Services

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    • Recently, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is hearing a dispute between the Delhi government and the Centre over the control of services.

    More about the news

    • The dispute:
      • The Supreme Court is hearing the dispute between the Union and the Delhi government over matters pertaining to control over the transfers and the overall functioning of administrative services in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi.
      • What is the dispute?
        • Accrding to few, the Delhi government has no power over administrative services at all. 
        • Whereas according to others, transfers and postings of Secretaries, HODs and other officers in the scale of Joint Secretary to the Government of India and above can be done by the Lieutenant Governor and for other levels, including DANICS (Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service) officers, the files can be routed through the Chief Minister to LG”.
    • Centre’s opinion:
      • The Centre had sought a reference to a larger Bench, arguing that it needed the power to make transfers and postings of officers in Delhi on account of it being the national capital and the “face of nation”.
    • Opinion of Delhi government:
      • Accoding to Delhi govt., a government cannot function if it does not have control over services as the exclusion of civil servants will negate governance and render officials unaccountable to people.
    • Significance of five-judge Constitution Bench:
      • The court agreed that the limited question relating to the scope of the legislative and executive powers of the Centre and NCT of Delhi, with respect to the term “services”, would need an authoritative pronouncement by a Constitution Bench in terms of Article 145(3) of the Constitution.
        • Article 145(3) deals with the setting up of a Constitution Bench comprising at least five judges “for the purpose of deciding any case involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation” of the Constitution.

    Dual Governance of Delhi

    • Delhi as Union territory (UT) and National Capital Territory (NCT): 
      • Delhi holds a unique position in India’s administrative framework. 
      • As a Union territory, it is governed by the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act 1991 which provides for both an elected assembly and an L-G appointed by the Union Home Ministry.
      • It was amended and is now governed by the Government of National Capital Territory (GNCT) of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021.
      • The status of Delhi being a UT under Schedule 1 of the Constitution and the ‘National Capital Territory under Article 239AA, engrafted by the Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014, put the dynamics of the relationship between the elected Council of Ministers in Delhi and the Central Government under severe strain. 
    • Status:
      • Delhi was given a fully elected legislative assembly and a responsible government through an amendment in the constitution in 1991.
      • Since 1991, Delhi had been made a UT with an assembly with “limited legislative powers”.

    Article 239 AA  & Special Status of Delhi 

    • Article 239 AA was inserted in the Constitution by the 69th Amendment Act, 1991, and conferred Special Status upon Delhi following the recommendations of the S Balakrishnan Committee
      • The committee was set up in 1987 to look into Delhi’s demands for statehood.
      • Provisions:
        • According to this provision, the NCT of Delhi will have an Administrator and a Legislative Assembly. 
        • Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the Legislative Assembly, “shall have the power to make laws for the whole or any part of the NCT with respect to any of the matters in the State List or Concurrent List in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union territories” except on the subjects of police, public order, and land.
    • Article 239AB provides that the President may by order suspend the operation of any provision of Article 239AA or of all or any of the provisions of any law made in pursuance of that article. This provision resembles Article 356 (President’s Rule).

    Source: IE