New Delhi: Two eminent lawyers today termed “unconstitutional” and “illegal” the Centre’s notification giving absolute powers to Delhi Lt Governor in appointment of bureaucrats and on subjects like police and public order and said the Chief Minister’s authority cannot be undermined.
After the AAP government sought their opinion, constitutional expert K K Venugopal and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanium questioned the very foundation of the gazette notification issued by the Home Ministry and wondered whether it has requisite approval of the President.
Their opinion will lend weight to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in his ongoing confrontation with the Centre over the division of powers between the elected government and the Lieutenant-Governor. Kejriwal has convened a special session of the Delhi Assembly to discuss the crisis on Tuesday.
Venugopal said if a democratically elected government has been brought into power by the people, then the ‘public services of the state’ should be controlled by the elected government.
Giving a thorough review of the notification linking provisions in the Constitution and Supreme Court’s ruling in a number of cases, he said the notification is “unconstitutional, illegal and void”.
On appointment of Chief Secretary, Venugopal said “undoubtedly, the Chief Secretary is the lynchpin of executive governance. He is to have the confidence of the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers, and so too other secretaries to the government.
“If government is given a Chief Secretary who obeys the orders of the administrator and not of the council of Ministers or the Chief Minister, this would be a sure recipe for disaster.”
The appointment of senior bureaucrat Shakuntala Gamlin as acting Chief Secretary by LG last week had triggered a full-blown war between the ruling AAP and the Lt Governor, with Kejriwal questioning the LG’s authority and accusing him of trying to take over the administration.
In the notification, the Home Ministry said that the LG will have jurisdiction over matters connected with services, public order, police and land and he may consult with the chief minister whenever he thinks necessary in issues of services using his own “discretion”.
In his opinion, Subramanium said the notification “is illegal and unconstitutional. Presumably, it has been issued without the requisite Presidential approval.”
In a sharp reaction to issuance of the notification, Kejriwal accused the Centre of “back-stabbing” the people of the city by “siding” with the Lt Governor and protecting the corrupt.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday that full statehood rights cannot be given to the Delhi government unless there is a general consensus in the country on the issue as it is the national capital.
“Whenever there will be general consensus in the country on giving full statehood status to the national capital, it is possible. But till that is not done, full statehood rights cannot be given to the state government,” Arun Jaitley said.
He was asked about BJP’s views on granting full statehood to Delhi, as promised by it in the past. He, however, noted that the confusion over rights exercised by the Centre and the elected government would lead to “offices being shut down” and to avoid that the Home Ministry had issued the classificatory notification yesterday.
“If there is confusion, then offices will be locked. And to ensure offices are not shut, it is the Centre’s responsibility to clarify, and the Home Ministry has fulfilled that responsibility by issuing a clarificatory notification to make it clear what rights rest with the Centre and what with the elected government,” he said.
The minister said Delhi is a Union Territory, which is today’s constitutional truth and Union Territories are under the Centre, but Delhi and Puducherry that have elected governments have separate arrangements, where some constitutional rights have been given to them.
The rights not given to their elected governments rest with the Centre and those rights are exercised by the Lt Governor, he said, adding that there is no scope for any grey area.
The Centre yesterday put its weight behind Delhi LG who has been given absolute powers in appointment of bureaucrats and he need not “consult” the chief minister on subjects like transfer of senior officers, police and public order.
Arvind Kejrial Government had attacked the Centre over the notification, accusing it of trying to rule Delhi through the backdoor and protect the corrupt.