Centre transferred Delhi’s chief secretary to ‘show hegemony’ over elected government, alleges AAP
The Union government’s decision to change Delhi’s chief secretary in a bureaucratic reshuffle is again leading to a stand-off between the Centre and the state at a time when the Supreme Court has reserved its judgment on which of them has the final authority on appointing and evaluating bureaucrats.
The issue of ‘services’ – dealing with transfers, postings and accountability of bureaucrats in Delhi -- has been a contentious one ever since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power in 2015, and the party on Sunday alleged that the Centre’s “sudden” move to remove Anshu Prakash as chief secretary was to show its “hegemony” over the elected government.
In a late-evening order, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) on Saturday transferred Prakash to the Union telecommunications ministry as additional secretary. While MHA is likely to announce Delhi’s next chief secretary by Tuesday, the AAP and the Delhi government questioned the timing of the move.
“What was the reason to transfer the chief secretary now? When the court is due to give its verdict, why could the decision not be taken later? The Delhi government has not received any official communication on this yet. The Centre neither informed nor consulted us about the transfer of Anshu Prakash and also about appointing his successor,” said Nagendar Sharma, media adviser to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
“In the eventuality of Delhi government getting control over ‘services’, it would like to appoint the chief secretary of its choice, and not that of the Centre. In such a scenario, the impending unilateral appointment of Prakash’s successor by the Centre will only complicate matters,” added another senior AAP leader who asked not to be named.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, called the AAP’s contention on the chief secretary’s transfer “vague” and “unconstitutional”. Leader of Opposition in the Delhi assembly Vijender Gupta said there is no way that an administrative step can be related to a judicial decision which is yet to be pronounced.
“I can still understand the logic of transferring officers within the Delhi government. But, how can the Delhi government transfer a bureaucrat to a Union ministry or to another UT, say Andaman and Nicobar islands?” he asked.
On July 4, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court said that the Delhi government had primacy over the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) on all matters other than police, land, and public order. But it left the issues of ‘services’ and control of Delhi’s anti-corruption branch to be decided by a two-judge bench.
The tussle over services arises from a May 21, 2015 notification issued by MHA that said the Centre, through the L-G, had jurisdiction over it. The Delhi government says this was “illegal”. The Centre has argued that the Supreme Court verdict of June 4 did on quash the MHA notification.
What has further complicated matters in Delhi this year is that, in February, Prakash alleged that some AAP MLAs assaulted him at a midnight meeting in the presence of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. The allegations snowballed into a tense standoff between Delhi’s bureaucracy, particularly IAS officers posted in the city government, and the political executive. Delhi police filed a charge sheet in the case against the CM, deputy CM Sisodia and other AAP MLAs. The AAP has called the charge sheet bogus and termed it a ploy by the Centre to launch a witch hunt against its leaders.
The Delhi government has long contended that not getting bureaucrats of its choice is hampering development work in several projects.
“The MHA has cadre controlling-authority of transferring and posting all-India service officers. They have a pool of IAS officers which they distribute in different UTs. Even if the SC’s verdict on services comes in favour of the Delhi government, implementing the order may take over a year. Administrative work cannot stop till then,” said SK Sharma, former Lok Sabha secretary.