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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

The pending issue of services will affect how Delhi is run

The Supreme Court has adjudicated on the issue. While Delhi waits for a final verdict, which will be decided by a separate bench, governance will continue to be the biggest loser

editorials Updated: Feb 14, 2019 20:24 IST

Hindustan Times
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Lt Governor Anil Baijal, New Delhi, July 6, 2018. Removing the administrative ambiguity in the national capital is easier said than done
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Lt Governor Anil Baijal, New Delhi, July 6, 2018. Removing the administrative ambiguity in the national capital is easier said than done(PTI)
         

Over four acrimonious years, the Delhi government, led by Arvind Kejriwal, and the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, have squared off on several issues, the most crucial among them the power to transfer and post bureaucrats in the state secretariat (services), and control over the state’s anti-corruption unit. These two were seen by both sides as key to who controls Delhi.

This debate, which was in the Supreme Court, was partly resolved on Thursday, in a verdict that will be a blow to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. The apex court ruled that control of the anti-corruption branch and the powers to institute commissions of enquiry rested with the Centre alone. It also referred the issue of services to a separate three-member bench, essentially leaving the question of who controls Delhi’s bureaucracy undecided for now. This issue has been in limbo since 2015, resulting face-offs between the elected government, the Lieutenant-Governor’s office, and the bureaucracy, and it has not helped either the administrative efficiency of the state or its delivery system. Though this was somewhat eased last year, when the Supreme Court laid down the broad contours of administrative jurisdiction, sluggishness in the machinery remains.

Removing the administrative ambiguity in Delhi is easier said than done. The top bureaucracy is drawn from a common cadre for a handful of states and Union Territories controlled by the Union home ministry. The problem in the overlapping power-sharing structure between the elected government and the L-G’s office was skirted until 2015, when the government at the state and the Centre managed to find a working solution to their differences. But as the AAP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are bitter, unyielding rivals, the convention of keeping each other in the loop changed after a May 2015 notification by the home ministry gave the Centre the last word. Since the SC judgment comes ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Mr Kejriwal has already pitched it as a poll issue. While Delhi waits for a final verdict, governance will continue to be the biggest loser.

First Published: Feb 14, 2019 20:23 IST

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