Centre versus Delhi Govt: Supreme Court reserves verdict on Centre’s plea to refer it to Constitution Bench

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The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on the Centre’s plea to refer the issue of control over bureaucracy in the National Capital to a five-judge Constitution Bench.

After hearing Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the Centre and senior advocate AM Singhvi on behalf of the Delhi Government, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said it would deliver verdict on the Centre’s application seeking referral to a Constitution Bench for a holistic interpretation of Article 239AA.

“We will consider and take a call as early as possible,” said the Bench – which also included Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli. In case a Constitution Bench was constituted, it would like the hearing to conclude by May 15, the Bench said.

Singhvi opposed the demand for referring the issue to a five-judge Bench, saying “This court is not here to refer every time the slightest thing is pointed out. How does this matter, if there were three or five judges. It is not about why not, it is about why.”

Maintaining that there was no ambiguity in the 2018 Constitution Bench judgment, he said, if there was any, it can be decided by the present Bench.

However, Mehta insisted that it should be considered by a larger Bench as earlier judgments didn’t give “any roadmap” to decide if the Centre or the Delhi government was competent to deal with the issue under dispute.

Describing Delhi as the “face of the nation”, Mehta had on Wednesday defended the Centre’s control over transfers and postings of bureaucrats in Delhi even as the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP Government took exception to his submissions.

The Supreme Court had on March 3 issued notice to the Centre on the Delhi Government’s petition challenging the validity of amended Government of NCT of Delhi Act, 2021 and Rule 13 of the Transaction of Business Rules, 1993 which allegedly gave more powers to Lieutenant Governor.

The tussle between Delhi Lt Governor and the elected Government of NCT has remained unresolved as the Supreme Court on February 14, 2019 delivered a split verdict on the issue of control of administrative services. The issue has since been referred to a three-judge Bench which took it up along with the Delhi Government’s fresh petition against the amended Government of NCT of Delhi Act, 2021.

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