In 2016 AAP-Centre tussle ruled, Ball in Supreme Court’s court in 2017
An eventful year in terms of Delhi politics, 2016 saw a new chapter in the AAP versus central government tussle continuing the drama of last year when the Anti-Corruption Branch was “hijacked” and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office was raided — with experts saying development had suffered and this situation needs to be rectified once and for all.
This year saw a severe setback to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) when the Delhi High Court recognised Lt. Governor as the administrative head of the Delhi government.
This prompted Lt Governor Najeeb Jung to set up a panel to probe over 400 files related to various decisions taken by the Delhi government ever since coming to power, which it called “illegal”.
However, the AAP government quickly moved the Supreme Court against the August 4 High Court decision and hopes to gain back lost ground in 2017.
“We have full faith in the Supreme Court and that’s why we have approached them. It is our firm belief that in the coming days, things will become clear and we will get justice from the Supreme Court,” Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said when asked about the AAP government’s expectations from the apex court.
What may boost the Delhi government’s confidence was the Supreme Court’s observation made last Wednesday that the elected government should have “some powers” in order to function properly. The Supreme Court has listed the case for final disposal on January 18.
The confrontation between the Delhi government and the Centre escalated from the very first day of the year when Kejriwal accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lt Governor Jung of allegedly masterminding the CBI raid at the Delhi Secretariat and the mass casual leave taken by IAS officers here just a day before the first edition of the odd-even scheme was to take off.
In March this year, the AAP government appointed former Chief Income Tax Commissioner Krishna Saini as Chairperson of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) without taking Jung’s approval.
In September, after the August 4 High Court verdict giving primacy to the LG, Jung scrapped Saini’s appointment ab initio, rendering all decisions taken by him void, and asked the government to start the selection process from the beginning as per the law.
Kejriwal called it a “conspiracy” by the BJP-led Centre to increase power tariff in the national capital as “Saini had issued many orders since his appointment to fix the accountability of power companies”.
Another flashpoint in the AAP-LG row was when Jung removed Delhi’s Health Secretary Tarun Seem and PWD secretary Sarvagya Srivastava — both officers instrumental in the implementation of the Delhi government’s Mohalla Clinic (Neighbourhood Clinic) project.
In response, Kejriwal said Modi was “hell bent on destroying Delhi through the Lt Governor”.
Interestingly, Seem’s replacement, Chandraker Bharti, has constantly been at loggerheads with the government, the most recent instance being his “refusal to visit a hospital along with Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain where a patient died due to non-availability of a ventilator”.
The tension between LG and the elected government extended to the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) as well when Jung appointed Alka Diwan as its Member Secretary in October.
Diwan stopped payment of salaries to contractual employees of DCW, prompting Kejriwal to seek her removal, terming her appointment unconstitutional and against the Delhi government’s wishes.
Jung then replaced Diwan with another IAS officer, Dilraj Kaur. Kejriwal rejected her appointment and directed P.P. Dhal to officiate in the position.
Constitutional expert and former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subhash C. Kashyap feels that the tussle is taking a toll on development in the national capital.
“It is a very sad state of affairs. The tussle between the Centre and the Delhi government is certainly affecting the development works in the city. Those suffering are the people who voted AAP to power,” Kashyap told IANS.
He said the government is run with “cooperation” and “collaboration”, not with “confrontation”.
Pointing to Kejriwal’s predecessor, Sheila Dikshit, Kashyap said if the elected government had taken the Lt. Governor in confidence from the beginning, this situation would not have arrived.
As for the future prospects of the tussle, Kashyap said: “It will depend on the results of the Punjab, Goa and Uttar Pradesh assembly elections (in 2017) and what lesson the AAP takes from them.”
Former Lok Sabha Secretary General P.D.T. Achary said the Supreme Court will decide the matter of jurisdiction once and for all, putting all controversies to rest.
“Whichever way the Supreme Court decides, at least the public will know the government’s powers. Whether the High Court verdict is upheld or overruled, all controversies will end,” Achary told IANS.
Achary, however, said the elected government should enjoy certain powers, otherwise there is no point in creating an assembly and a council of ministers.
“As per the constitution, the elected government and the council of ministers are collectively responsible to the legislature. If the LG has all the powers then this provision of the constitution loses its meaning,” he said.
“In that case who will be responsible for governance?”
Achary added that Delhi currently faces a peculiar situation due to the prevailing confusion over the matter of jurisdiction.
“Due to this, the governance in the city is at a standstill and the government has become powerless. The only hope is that the apex court takes the final decision and ends all the confusion,” he added.
In the meantime, several decisions of the elected government — including the bus lane policy, mohalla clinics in schools and raising the minimum wages of labourers are still under the Lt Governor’s scrutiny.