By Rishvik Chanda:
The vibrant democracy of India is lauded as one of the country’s greatest virtues. But we got to see the messier side of our multi-party democracy when a tug of war began between Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi and Najeeb Jung, the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi, over the matter of constitutional jurisdiction.
• On Friday the 15th, the LG appointed Shakuntala Gamlin, Principal Secretary (Power) as the acting Delhi Chief Secretary. Kejriwal has objected to this appointment claiming the LG does not have the constitutional authority to appoint bureaucrats. Kejriwal also accused the Modi government at the Centre of trying to take control over the government of Delhi through the LG.
• On Monday, Anindo Majumdar, Principal Secretary (Services), who had issued an order notifying the appointment of Gamlin, found himself locked out of his office and his post replaced by Rajender Kumar, Kejriwal’s principal secretary, as per a directive from the AAP Government. This was the LG’s turn to declare this appointment constitutionally void as it did not have his approval. Raghav Chadha, AAP spokesperson, denied Majumdar being locked out on an NDTV discussion. Manish Sisodia, deputy Chief Minister, maintains that the AAP government have strictly followed the constitutional provisions.
• The AAP and the LG are both accusing each other of overstepping constitutional jurisdictions. On being asked for her legal opinion, Ms. Indira Jaising, constitutional expert and former Additional Solicitor General, cited Article 239AA of the Constitution and holds that the LG has no power to appoint the Chief Secretary. The constitutional plan to give Delhi’s Assembly and CoM powers over all matters (other than land, public order and police) is reflected in Section 41 of the NCT Act.
• Kejriwal has been criticized for neglecting governance and for only managing to involve himself in a series of controversies and is being called uncooperative and paranoid. He is also accused of maligning Gamlin’s character without evidence. The Centre pettily accused the AAP government of racism as well as sexism, highlighting Gamlin’s identity of a North-Eastern and a woman.
• Constitutional experts argue that the LG’s claim that Kejriwal sat on the files for 40 hours did not give him powers to override the CM. The LG on the 20th cancelled all appointments made by the AAP government in the last four days, asserting that posting of bureaucrats is solely his prerogative.
• On the 22nd of May, the Home Ministry seemed to have settled the dispute between the CM and the LG by issuing a notification which establishes the LG as the authority on executive decisions. Therefore, Gamlin’s appointment by the LG is to be considered constitutional since appointing bureaucrats has been declared to be the prerogative of the LG.
This issue has escalated to embarrassingly ugly levels and turned into a petty egotistical power tussle between the CM and the LG. The dismaying lack of understanding and cooperation between parties charged with governing the same land is worrying. Furthermore, the notification by the Home Ministry, which seriously undermines the power of the AAP government in Delhi, is sure to sour relationships between the BJP government at the Centre and the AAP in Delhi.