Kejriwal on LG’s Decision to Terminate Services of 400 Persons: “Will Strangulate Delhi Govt.”
In a recent development that has further fueled the ongoing power struggle between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government and the lieutenant governor, the termination of services for approximately 400 individuals appointed as advisors, consultants, and fellows in various departments of the Delhi government has drawn sharp criticism from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The decision, initiated by Lieutenant Governor V.K. Saxena, has been deemed by Kejriwal as an attempt to “strangulate” the functioning of the Delhi government. This clash of authority over administrative personnel and civil servants in Delhi has been exacerbated by the introduction of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023, by the Central government.
On July 5, the Services Department issued a directive to all government departments, instructing them to immediately cease the engagement of staff deployed as fellows, associate fellows, and advisors who were appointed without the approval of the lieutenant governor. These appointments encompassed specialists working across various departments, autonomous bodies, and public sector undertakings. Additionally, the Services Department order highlighted that the reservation policies were not adhered to during these engagements, further adding to the controversy surrounding the issue.
The termination of services for the appointed advisors, consultants, and fellows marks the latest escalation in the ongoing conflict between the Delhi government and the lieutenant governor’s office. The root cause of this tussle can be traced back to the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023, introduced by the Central government. This ordinance seeks to redefine the powers and responsibilities of the elected Delhi government and the lieutenant governor, who represents the Union government. It aims to grant the lieutenant governor increased control over administrative matters, including the appointment and transfer of civil servants in the national capital.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party, the AAP, have vehemently opposed the ordinance, viewing it as an encroachment on the elected government’s autonomy and an attempt to undermine the democratic principles of governance. They argue that such measures are in violation of the Constitution, which grants elected governments the authority to administer their respective territories. The AAP-led Delhi government has consistently called for greater devolution of power to enable effective governance and swift decision-making.
The decision to terminate the services of the appointed advisors, consultants, and fellows without the consent of the elected government has intensified the already strained relationship between the AAP and the lieutenant governor’s office. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s criticism of Lieutenant Governor V.K. Saxena’s order stems from the belief that the move will impede the smooth functioning of the Delhi government. Kejriwal contends that advisors, consultants, and fellows play a vital role in providing specialised knowledge and expertise, contributing significantly to the efficient execution of governmental functions.
The issue of reservation policies not being followed in the appointments has further fueled the controversy. Reservation is a crucial aspect of India’s social fabric, aimed at ensuring representation and equal opportunities for historically disadvantaged communities. The Services Department’s assertion that the engagement of these individuals did not adhere to reservation policies raises concerns about transparency and fairness in the selection process.
Amidst this backdrop, the AAP government has decided to challenge the Services’ Ordinance in the Supreme Court. The upcoming hearing on July 10 will provide a crucial platform for both the Delhi government and the lieutenant governor’s office to present their arguments and seek legal redress. The outcome of this legal battle will have far-reaching implications for the distribution of powers between the elected government and the lieutenant governor, potentially setting a precedent for similar conflicts in other Union Territories.
The conflict between the Delhi government and the lieutenant governor’s office highlights the broader issue of the balance of power between elected governments and representatives of the Union government in the governance of Union Territories. It underscores the need for a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities to ensure effective governance and protect democratic principles.
As the legal battle unfolds, the eyes of the nation will be on the Supreme Court, eagerly awaiting its verdict. The decision will not only determine the fate of the appointed advisors, consultants, and fellows but will also shape the future course of administrative control and governance in Delhi. The outcome will have significant implications for the functioning of the Delhi government and could potentially redefine the relationship between elected governments and representatives of the Union government in the country.
In response to the decision that would give the Lieutenant Governor (LG) control over civil servants in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal strongly criticised the move, stating that it would severely hinder the Delhi government and its services. He took to Twitter to express his concerns, questioning the intentions of the Hon’ble LG and expressing hope that the Hon’ble Supreme Court would swiftly overturn the decision.
The LG’s office justified its actions by claiming that the appointments made by the Delhi government had not received the necessary approval from the LG’s office and were deemed irregular. However, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government maintained that these appointments were made to provide expertise to the government, contributing to policy suggestions, framing, and offering scientific inputs in specialised areas.
In light of these developments, the Supreme Court scheduled a hearing for the Delhi government’s petition challenging the controversial Ordinance on July 10. On July 6, when the senior advocate representing the Delhi government, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, requested an urgent hearing, Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud decided to hear the case on July 10, along with another petition filed by the Delhi government. Additionally, the AAP government filed a separate petition against the appointment of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) chairperson, which is set to be heard on July 11. Both petitions will now be addressed on July 10.
In its petition, the Delhi government argued that the ordinance transfers control over civil servants serving in Delhi from the elected government to the unelected Lieutenant Governor, violating Article 239AA of the Constitution. The government stated that the power and control over services should rightfully reside with the elected government and expressed concern over the ordinance’s encroachment on this constitutional provision.