A day after the Delhi High Court ruled that the lieutenant governor is ‘the administrator’ of Delhi, Najeeb Jung talks about his experience with the AAP government and the road ahead.
What are the ramifications of the Delhi high court verdict on the government’s functioning? What impact will it have?
The impact should have been negligible had the elected government followed norms and the Constitution and the transaction of business rules. As they did not, this clarity of process will make a big difference. For instance, files that were stopped at the secretariat level, which should have come to us, will now have to come to us.
Last September, we pointed this out to the government when it was resisting it. The ministry of home affairs issued an exclusive order on September 19, 2015, making individual officers culpable if they did not follow the transaction of business rules and the constitutional provisions. Despite that, all the papers were not sent to us. With this clarity, even if officers would be advised to the contrary, files would come to us. So what will happen henceforth would be legitimate and constitutional.
Does that mean officers who have not followed orders will be made culpable and accountable?
I do not intend going after officers for what has happened in the last one year. They worked under enormous compulsions. On many occasions when they were not at fault, they were unnecessarily harassed and punished. I don’t have to mention names here. They are all out in public domain. But for the future, I would make it absolutely clear that these are senior officers, secretary-level officers, commissioners… they would certainly be held accountable if they do not follow the legal provisions. But I would also clarify that what has happened in the past needs to be rectified.
Will you review the decisions taken so far?
Yes. We are in the process of requesting the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi to send us all those files on which clearance was required and they have not got so far.
The stalemate over the past one year has also been due to the political demand for full statehood for Delhi. You are not only the administrator of Delhi. You are also a citizen of Delhi. Do you think the demand for full statehood is justified or is the present arrangement good enough for the national Capital?
This thing has been dealt at length in Parliament. This matter has been dealt with in this high court judgment . This matter was dealt at length by a committee in 1989, which concluded that Delhi as the Capital of the Union occupies a unique position for the nation and it has special features inherent in the national Capital. It is in the national interest that the central government has a comprehensive control over the affairs of the Capital to secure a high degree of security and a high level of administrative efficiency.
At the same time, the demand of a large and articulate population for the democratic right of participation in the government is too important to be ignored. That is how the assembly came in. The structure of the administration to be devised for Delhi should therefore be such as to strike a balance between the need to be with the Centre and the need to satisfy the democratic aspirations of the people. Then you come to the alternatives.
So even as a citizen of Delhi, two or three years ago not knowing the system, I may have said as a layman that make Delhi a state, what’s bad in that? But today, as an insider in the system and having studied it, I would say Delhi must continue to be a UT. It just cannot be made a state.
Many officers brought in by the Kejriwal government in positions that are cadre posts may be from other states and services. What do you intend to do with such super-time appointments?
The rule is very clear. If any non-cadre person comes into a cadre post, he can stay in the position for three months. Subsequent to that, he needs the Centre’s permission. Currently, there are 4-5 officers in the secretariat holding cadre positions. Three readily come to my mind. I will be writing to the chief secretary against those (appointments). They have to be moved out immediately.
So your director (vigilance) goes?
I think, he came as OSD to the chief minister. He would go back as OSD to the chief minister, which is a non-cadre post.
The chief secretary was served six memos by the Delhi government. The law and homes secretaries ran into problems with the government. The secretary (services) was locked out of his room. How do you intend to reverse this trend and put the system back in place?
These 17 months have been tumultuous for the bureaucracy. They had never faced such a situation. It was Tsunami where officers were confronted with a slew of words, which are not normally used against civil servants. The word ‘civil servant’ comes from civility. They are expected to be civil and they expect people to be civil towards them.
What happened was unfortunate. There are officers who have capitulated out of fear. There are some who thought they would benefit out of it. But there were many who withstood the onslaught. And they were indeed punished. It was unprecedented when DANICS officers went on casual leave for a day. The IAS officers worked half day in protest. Delhi bureaucracy is not a trade union. I am also a former civil servant. It doesn’t occur to a civil servant to go on a mass strike. A civil servant is used to working in natural calamity. They do not look at work hours. Annual leave is a rarity. All this amounts to a request for polite action with us. That didn’t happen and it has hurt them very deeply.
Look what happened to the lady who was to be chief secretary for a short period of time? There was a case of having two home secretaries at the same time. This has hurt the civil service. With this (HC verdict) clarity, I am convinced that this would help to recreate the spine of the civil service.
The CM recently said the prime minister was out to get him killed. They accused you of taking a bribe.
It’s completely laughable. The chief minister of Delhi gets a very high-level of security. His level of security is just next to what an SPG protectee gets. So this threat is coming from a strange paranoia, a remark that shouldn’t be coming from a chief minister.
The ration shop business was complete rubbish. There was a case in my court. I function as an appellate court. The ration shop was allotted to a widow. The local MLA of the area had gone to the shop and bullied the shopkeeper and had the ration distributed. That was the evidence put before us. I said the ration shop should be restored. I also said the chief secretary and the police should investigate whether this complaint against the MLA was correct or not. The honourable CM felt that his man should be protected. The assembly resolution is quite meaningless.
You have been called Modi’s agent. Has the prime minister ever called to tell you what to do against the current (Delhi) government?
No one in this current government has ever asked me to do things this way or that way. Prime minister to bahut badi cheez hain. No one in this government has ever called me. But I am in contact with the home ministry to which I report on various issues. But the home minister has never called me to give any specific direction. He has never even interfered in the transfer of any DCP, joint CP…which is well within his mandate.
After this verdict, do you intend to meet the chief minister once he comes from his retreat to sort things out?
The CM used to meet me once in two-three weeks till about two months ago. Every time I meet him, it is my constitutional duty to tell him that he should work with us. I have never had a falling out or a nasty bickering one to one. Everything happens after he goes back and he rethinks whatever has been discussed here.
So, it is my constitutional duty to request him to make a visit to this office and tell him that this is what the high court has so far said.
But it is his privilege and his decision to approach the Supreme Court. It is my duty to show the high court order to him and request him that it is in the interest of democracy, interest of Delhi, interest of this Union Territory, the great national Capital of India. He should work with us in line with the Constitution.
How do you think the police have been functioning under the new commissioner? How do you intend to make Delhi safer for women and curb non-heinous crime such as snatching, burglaries and car-thefts? Can we have a better conviction rate in non-heinous crimes?
I told the police commissioner this week that conviction rates must improve. Because when you arrest someone, you have some evidence. Once we file the chargesheet, we need to ensure conviction happens.
It has been reported widely that 99% of rapes happen in the confines of homes. Father, brother, uncle and immediate neighbours are the ones behind such crimes. Unfortunately, you can’t have eyes in the bedroom.
But there is the other 6-7%, which is happening in the unauthorised colonies where living conditions are difficult. We have to work to change the mindset. Now that does not rest entirely with the police. It rests with parenting.
But the police also need to make the roads, public places safe.
We need to immediately do certain things. Like installation of CCTVs. The week the new police commissioner came, the CM said that he would provide funds for the installation of CCTV cameras. We welcomed it. The police commissioner said he will provide a list. The CM wanted to install and monitor them. We agreed. It’s been about six months but nothing happened.
The role of a beat constable has to be much better. The thanedar has to be more sincere. And that is all coming from repeated training programmes that we are trying to give.
After the lone-wolf attacks, the London Police decided to set up a special unit to deal solely with such terror acts. Are we even thinking on those lines?
We are conscious of it. We are trying many things I can’t put in print. The intelligence has improved. We are in very close contact with the police in neighbouring states. We are keeping a close watch on all potential areas, institutions and organisations that have the potential of throwing up such things. We are keeping a watch on those who might not be under serious watch earlier.
Delhi is a very dirty city. Now that the hierarchy is clearly defined, can we have a cleaner Capital?
The municipalities have to do a much better job. But we all have to pull up our socks. I will have to call the commissioners, speak to them. Dhalaos must be cleaner. We need an efficient sewage system.
Shah Jahan made the walled city to accommodate around 3-4 lakh people. Today it caters to nearly 40 or 45 lakh people. But the sewerage system still holds. So what we have to do is to ensure proper maintenance. Something is wrong in the way we construct roads, sewage lines and the brutality with which we have concretised earth.