Delhi govt vs Centre on administrative services in NCT: SC refers matter to Constitution Bench

The Supreme Court on Friday referred questions arising out of the dispute between the Centre and Delhi government over control of administrative services in the National Capital Territory to a five-judge Constitution bench for an authoritative pronouncement.

A three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said an earlier Constitution bench which interpreted Article 239AA, that gives special status to Delhi, requires further examination on the limited question of scope of legislative and executive powers of NCT Delhi with respect to services.

The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, said the matter will be heard on May 11.

A five judge Constitution bench, while interpreting Article 239AA in the wake of dispute between the Lieutenant Governor and Delhi government, had in July 2018 said that while the Council of Ministers must communicate all decisions to L-G, this does not mean the L-G’s concurrence is required. In case of a difference in opinion, the L-G can refer it to the President for a decision. The L-G has no independent decision making power, but has to either act on the “aid and advice” of the Council of Ministers or is bound to implement the decision of the President on a reference being made, the court said.

Subsequently in 2019, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, while dealing with some individual issues arising from the power tussle, had said that the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Delhi government cannot investigate corruption cases against central government officials, and that the power to appoint commissions under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 would be vested with the Centre and not the Delhi government.

The two-judge bench upheld two notifications issued by the Centre on July 23, 2014, and May 21, 2015, which had the effect of excluding the jurisdiction of Delhi government’s Anti-Corruption Branch from probing offences committed by central government officials and limiting it to employees of the Delhi government.

The bench judges, however, differed on who should have control over the administrative services.

The Centre contended that the two judges could not take a decision on the question, as the Constitution bench in its July 2018 judgment had not interpreted the expression “insofar as any such matter as applicable to Union Territories” appearing in Article 239AA. The Centre urged the bench presided by CJI Ramana to refer it to a five-judge Constitution bench so that the question of law can be settled first before the dispute over who has control over services can be looked into.

The NCT government opposed this, saying there was already a Constitution bench decision in the matter.

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