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Atishi terms L-G's order to rescind DDCD's non-official members as 'null and void'

Her order comes days after the Lieutenant Governor had approved temporarily dissolving the DDCD and the removal of its non-official members till a mechanism is developed for the screening and selection of domain experts as its vice-chairperson and members last month.
Last Updated : 02 July 2024, 16:50 IST

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New Delhi: Delhi Planning Minister Atishi has directed that the order from the Services Department and Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena to rescind the non-official members of the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDCD) is "null and void due to a patent lack of jurisdiction".

She has said the non-official members will continue in their roles despite the LG's order.

Her order comes days after the Lieutenant Governor had approved temporarily dissolving the DDCD and the removal of its non-official members till a mechanism is developed for the screening and selection of domain experts as its vice-chairperson and members last month.

The order issued by Atishi is marked to Principal Secretary (Planning), Principal Secretary (Services) and Special Secretary to the chief minister.

"... it is clear that the Services Order and the LG's Order are glaring instances of a colourable exercise of power amounting to misuse and abuse of authority, and are ex facie erroneous and fallacious. The Services Order and the LG's Order suffer from a patent lack of jurisdiction and are therefore non-est in law.

"Therefore, the undersigned is pleased to declare the Service Department's order dated 27.06.2024 and the LG's Order as null and void and restore the status quo ante as prevailing on 26.06.2024. Any action pursuant to the Services Order or the LG's Order without the approval of the Minister (Planning) shall be deemed illegal, and shall make the erring officials liable for disciplinary action," read her order.

Atishi, in her order, said the DDCD has been constituted by the elected government of Delhi, that is, the council of ministers.

"... it is clear that the LG does not have any independent decision-making power over transferred subjects. In such matters, he is bound by the aid and advice of the elected Government, which exercises exclusive executive powers over transferred subjects, including issues pertaining to the Planning Department, which is the administrative department for GNCTD," read the order.

Atishi noted that the LG has rescinded the engagement of all non-official members of the DDCD with immediate effect.

"Further, while no official communication has been received from the LG's office, I, as Minister (Planning), have learned from media reports dated 27.06.2024 that the LG has issued orders approving a proposal.

"This proposal involves working out the Terms of Reference and forming a Screening-cum-Selection Committee for the DDCD, in line with NITI Aayog guidelines, by the Planning Department in consultation with the AR Department. Additionally, the Services Department has proposed dissolving the DDCD as an interim measure," the order mentions.

Atishi's order said it "is unequivocally clear" from the terms of constitution of the DDCD that the sole supervisory jurisdiction and authority over the appointment of and discharge of functions by non-official members is that of the chief minister.

"It is abundantly clear that the non-official members are to be appointed directly by the Chief Minister, that their term is coterminous with the term of the Government of NCT of Delhi and they can be removed only with the approval of the Chairperson, DDCD, who is the Chief Minister," she said.

"Prima facie, it is observed that the LG is not vested with any jurisdiction or authority to issue an order to rescind the engagement of these non-official members," read the order issued by her.

Atishi stressed that the LG and the Services Department have no power or authority over the non-official members of the DDCD in any manner whatsoever, be it in respect of their appointment or removal. They do not exercise any supervisory control over the DDCD or its non-official members, she said in the order.

"Furthermore, the DDCD operates under the Planning Department of GNCTD. As per the Allocation of Business Rules, 1993 issued under Section 44(1)(a) of the GNCTD Act, 1991, the formulation, monitoring, appraisal and review of plans, and the evaluation of plan schemes fall within the purview of the Planning Department, and none of its functions or the business items allocated to it correspond to any reserved subject over which the LG can exercise jurisdiction," the order read.

Atishi said the non-official members do not fall within the ambit of the Services Department as they are not government servants.

She observed that non-official members of the DDCD are not appointed to a civil service, nor do they hold a civil post.

The non-official members have been appointed by the chief minister, to advise the government on issues of governance and their term is coterminous with the present government. They hold office at the pleasure of the chairperson of DDCD, who is the Chief Minister.

"They are not a part of the 'permanent executive' and, hence, not within the jurisdiction of the Services Department, but at the highest could perhaps be stated to be an extension of the 'political executive'. Therefore, the Services Department does not have the authority to issue the said Order," she added.

Atishi also praised the performance of the three members.

"Since it is abundantly clear that any order/direction for removal of the above as non-official members can only be passed by the Chairperson, DDCD/ Chief Minister as the competent authority, it follows that without any direction from him, the order of Services Department dated 27.06.2024 suffers from a patent want of jurisdiction," she added.

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Published 02 July 2024, 16:50 IST

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