The Supreme Court on Friday sought a reply from the AAP government on an appeal by the Centre against a Delhi high court order that questioned the legality of a union home ministry notification curbing chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s powers.
A vacation bench headed by Justice AK Sikri also said the HC should proceed with AAP’s fresh petition against the notification independently and not be influenced by observations made in the May 25 verdict.
The apex court, however, did not stay the observations by the high court, which had termed as “suspect” last week’s notification and had said the lieutenant governor must respect the people’s mandate.
The power struggle between Kejriwal and LG Najeeb Jung is rooted in Delhi’s unique position as a union territory functioning as the Capital, with the state government having no say over several important departments and agencies that function under the lieutenant governor, who reports to the Centre.
The AAP government must reply within three weeks on the Centre’s plea for a stay on the high court order, the Supreme Court said, while it also reportedly suggested that all disputes arising out of the turf war between the Delhi administration and Centre be placed before it.
Kejriwal has accused Jung of “dancing to the tunes” of the BJP-led Centre to create obstacles for the AAP government.
During the hearing, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar representing the Centre wryly asked the apex court whether one will have to seek the Delhi government’s permission to celebrate Republic Day also.
The Delhi government on Thursday challenged in the high court the constitutional validity of the home ministry notification, while the Centre sought an urgent hearing of its petition before the Supreme Court against the May 25 HC order.
The notification issued last week barred Delhi’s anti-corruption branch from registering cases against central officers, including those from Delhi police.
The high court did not strike down the notification but gave an upper hand to the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that romped to power this year, winning all but three seats in the 70-member assembly.
Home minister Rajnath Singh said the Centre had no intention to run the Delhi government through anyone, but it was conscious of its constitutional responsibility and committed to maintain it.
"Let them run the government. We just want to uphold the constitutional provisions," he said at a press conference in the Capital.
Ahead of the crucial court hearings, Jung met union home secretary LC Goyal and rang up the home minister as, sources said, they discussed the Centre’s stand in the apex court.
The Delhi government told the high court on Thursday that the Centre sought to “usurp and arrogate” a wide range of functions which would fall under the subject “services”, leaving the Kejriwal administration with little say on its bureaucracy.
The Centre countered through a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, saying there was a need for clear interpretation of Article 239AA of the Constitution that deals with the powers of the lieutenant governor and the elected government in Delhi.
Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh this week told the apex court that observations made by the high court in its May 25 verdict led to uncertainty and made everyday administration of the national capital difficult.
Similarly, Delhi’s standing counsel Raman Duggal told the high court that curbs on the elected government’s authority had brought work in crucial departments such as power, water and health virtually to a standstill.