Ordinance by Centre to regain government control adds twist to day of drama in Delhi

ByAlok KN Mishra
May 20, 2023 09:46 AM IST

The move came hours after Kejriwal said there were rumours that the Union government will bring an ordinance to overturn the May 11 verdict.

An ordinance brought by the Centre to regain control over Delhi’s officers is a violation of a recent Supreme Court order that gave the elected government the power to power to appoint bureaucrats in all but a select few departments, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said on Friday even as the BJP welcomed the move.

Delhi ministers wait outside the LG Secretariat on Friday. (Sanjeev Verma/ HT Photo)
Delhi ministers wait outside the LG Secretariat on Friday. (Sanjeev Verma/ HT Photo)

The move came hours after chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said there were rumours that the Union government will bring an ordinance to overturn the May 11 verdict.

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Also read: Centre moves ordinance to negate SC verdict on Delhi services

Education minister Atishi later said the ordinance was a contempt of the Supreme Court. “The Centre’s ordinance is clearly contempt of the Supreme Court Constitution bench which clearly ruled that the elected government should have the power to take decisions (regarding services matters). The ordinance has been brought by the central government out of fear that the power will go into the hands of CM Arvind Kejriwal’s government,” said Atishi in a statement.

“It is clear that the central government is afraid of Arvind Kejriwal and the judgment of the Supreme Court, that is why they have brought this ordinance which is a contempt of the SC,” she added.

The top court’s Constitution bench, on May 11 said that officers working in all departments except those relating to public order, land and police fell within the administrative and legislative control of the Delhi government, capping a dispute that began with a notification issued eight years ago by the Union government, and led to a protracted court battle with split verdicts.

But the ordinance on Friday negated the ruling.

“The central government has snatched the powers on services matters given to the elected government of Delhi by the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court. The people of Delhi elected Arvind Kejriwal for the third time, but the Centre is saying that the imposed lieutenant governor will have the rights of transfer and posting, and through it he will have authority over every work. This is contempt and insult to the Supreme Court,” Delhi services minister Saurabh Bharadwaj said.

Senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi, who represented the Delhi government before the top court, criticised the ordinance. “Clearly, it is the act of a bad, poor and graceless loser. Doubtful if constitutional principles can be diluted by ordinances/acts. Greater doubt whether Parliament as a whole will at all approve it,” he added.

Delhi BJP chief Virendra Sachcdeva said his party welcomes the Centre’s decision.

“Delhi is the capital of the country, the whole of India has the right over it and for a long time the administrative dignity of Delhi has been hurt by the Arvind Kejriwal government. The corruption of this government has also embarrassed Delhi a lot and now in the last one week, the way the Arvind Kejriwal government has tried to defame Delhi’s administration and do arbitrariness, the BJP welcomes the ordinance,” said Sachdeva.

Earlier, Kejriwal had expressed concern that an ordinance may be promulgated.

“I hope that these rumours are false. If this is true it will be big betrayal for the people of Delhi and the country. The judgment was given by the constitution bench of the SC and it should be respected by everyone. The people of Delhi have got justice after many years and they are happy that the government they elected will be able to work for them,” Kejriwal said.

Also read: ‘Centre plotting to reverse SC order’: Arvind Kejriwal amid Delhi govt official's transfer row

He was speaking after meeting the LG, who the AAP alleged was dragging his feet in signing a file removing services secretary Ashish More.

The standoff, which began hours after the court verdict on May 11 as the Delhi government’s ordered More’s removal, dragged on for nine days.

On Friday evening, ministers protested at the LG’s office. Later, led by Kejriwal, they met the LG in a video-recorded event.

“I asked the LG when he is clearing the file to transfer the services secretary. The LG said he is sending it…I hope that the LG will send the file soon because the services secretary (position) is critical for the administrative reshuffle that we want to do. So the change of the services secretary is needed,” Kejriwal said after the meeting.

On Friday evening, the LG signed the order to replace More with AK Singh.

And then the ordinance added another twist to the saga.

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