Centre, Kejriwal's AAP govt set for bigger fight over Delhi's powers as tussle reaches SC
The Union home ministry filed an appeal in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, contesting a high court order that restored the power of the Delhi government’s anti-corruption branch (ACB) to investigate central government employees in graft cases.
An NDA government notification issued last week barred the ACB from registering cases against central officers, including those from Delhi Police, escalating an all-out turf war between chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung.
“We moved a special leave petition (SLP) against the Delhi High Court order. We want the order stayed,” said a home ministry official.
The notification was issued in accordance with rules in the Constitution. The appeal could be mentioned before the vacation bench of the SC on Thursday.”
The high court found fault with the notification that had also curbed the AAP government’s administrative powers. Justice Vipin Sanghi called the notification “suspect” and noted that the mandate of the people “must be respected by the L-G”.
The court did not strike down the notification but gave an upper hand to AAP.
Sources said the home ministry found the court’s observations “uncalled for” since it already has pending proceedings related to the ACB which had filed, during Kejriwal’s 49-day tenure as chief minister in 2013-14, an FIR against former Union petroleum ministers Veerappa Moily and Murli Deora, Reliance Industries and top government officials for alleged graft in gas pricing.
Reliance challenged the powers of the ACB in the high court, saying the Delhi government’s agency has no authority to take such a step.
Sources said the home ministry’s SLP would also argue it was well within its rights to issue the notification and the high court had made the observations without hearing the Centre’s views.
The power struggle between Kejriwal and 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 confrontation started after Jung appointed senior bureaucrat Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary against the wishes of the AAP government.