A prolonged legal battle invoked by the AAP government in Delhi for delineating powers, on Thursday, culminated into further restriction of its authority with the Supreme Court clarifying that policing and inquiries are the exclusive domain of the Centre, which also in effect retained the control over bureaucrats in the national capital.
This came as a huge setback for the AAP government, which faced a frequent tussle with Lieutenant Governor after helming into power in 2015 on an anti-corruption plank.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan delineated the power of the Government of National Capital Territory, ruling largely in favour of the Union government, on several contentious issues. The court relied upon the Constitution bench judgement of July 4, 2018, that unanimously held that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state but the Lieutenant Governor can't claim "independent decision-making power" and has to act on the aid and advice of the elected government.
The top court declared the AAP government cannot order the appointment of inquiry panel under the Commission of Inquiry Act. It also ruled that the Delhi government cannot order registration of criminal cases against the central government staff using its Anti-Corruption Branch, a police station to register graft cases.
“The ACB is not empowered to investigate into the offences of central government employees under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Admittedly, this investigation is carried out by the CBI. Therefore, it obviates the duality and conflict of jurisdiction as well,” the court said.
However, the Delhi government got some relief as the top court declared it can order the appointment of a special public prosecutor to pursue criminal cases in courts. “Lieutenant Governor, while appointing the Special Public Prosecutor, is to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers,” it said.
The court also said Delhi Government has the power to issue directions in matters of policies involving public interest, particularly on the formation of the enery regulatory commission.
With regard to the exercise of revising the agricultural land price, the court held that the view of L-G has to be taken before issuing any notification.
“In the interest of good governance and smooth governmental function, we expect that efforts will be made by both the Chief Minister as well as the LG for a harmonious working relation,” the bench said.
The issue of control over services with regard to class III and VI staff remained unresolved for now, as the Justices Sikri and Bhushan gave different views and sent the matter to the CJI for placing it before a three-judge bench for final adjudication.
The court dealt with as many as nine appeals – seven by the Delhi and two by Union government -- against the Delhi High Court's judgement of August 4, 2016. Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram, Shekhar Naphade and Indira Jaising argued for Delhi government. The Centre was represented by senior counsel C A Sundaram, Rakesh Dwivedi and Maninder Singh.
The court decided the issues in light of the provisions of Article 239 AA(4) of the Constitution and the Transaction of Business of the Government of NCT of Delhi Rules, 1993, among others.