A full-blown war erupted today between Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with both challenging each other’s authority over the administration following a bitter confrontation on the appointment of an acting Chief Secretary for 10 days. Hours after senior bureaucrat Shakuntala Gamlin took charge as acting Chief Secretary despite being asked not to do so by Kejriwal, the fight flared up as he shot off .. a strongly- worded letter to LG Najeeb Jung:
Excerpt from the scathing diatribe (letter) against LG:
“I am simply aghast by your questionable instructions issued directly to the Pr. Secretary (Services) to post an officer of your choice as the acting Chief Secretary of Delhi. You have bypassed the democratically elected government.
I would strongly request and urge you to remain within the confines of the Constitution and the laws relating to government of NCT of Delhi.
I cannot but conclude that This is a thinly disguised attempt to render the democratically elected Govt “ineffective” and administer the National Capital Territory of Delhi directly.”
The Lt Governor hit back at Kejriwal blaming him for the delay in appointment of an acting Chief Secretary and revoked Kejriwal’s order transferring Principal Secretary in Services Department Arindam Majumdar, who issued the appointment letter to Gamlin at the instructions from Jung. After Kejriwal’s letter, Jung said he has “acted fully conscious of his duties and responsibilities under the Constitution of India. Till date not a single action taken by the Lt Governor’s Secretariat is in non-conformity with the provisions of the Constitution.”
Najeeb Jung had yesterday appointed Gamlin to the post despite strong opposition to her nomination by Kejriwal dispensation which alleged that she had close links with BSES discoms. The 1984-batch officer has, however, denied the charges saying they were baseless. The AAP government also attacked the BJP accusing it of attempting to stage a coup through the LG.
A press release issued by Jung’s office said the Chief Minister was duly consulted on the issue of appointment of the acting chief secretary and added that the relevant note sheet was in public domain. “The delay on the part of the Chief Minister of over 40 hours necessitated a direction from the Lt Governor that orders be issued. It is a given that the office of the Chief Secretary cannot be left vacant. The Chief Secretary is required not just for normal work but for any emergency that may come up.” About removal of Majumdar, it said the order “does not have the approval of the Lt Governor, who is the Competent Authority to transfer officials of that rank. This order is ab-initio void.”
Following LG’s rebuttal, Kejriwal took to the twitter:
Do note: “perceived to be” !!
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the charge of Services department, targeted BJP over the issue. “The BJP through LG of Delhi has attempted a coup against the democratically elected government of Delhi with highest ever mandate in the history of the state.
Meanwhile, Parimal Rai, who was backed by Kejriwal for the post, declined to become acting Chief Secretary, noting that he respects the Lt Governor’s directions.
Delhi’s constitutional status can be seen here: – http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/amend/amend69.htm
The constitution’s position on this is very clear.
Art 239 of the Constitution of India as amended by the 69th amendment act (now art. 239AA) says “this in respect to the Lt.Gov and the council of ministers – (4) There shall be a Council of Ministers consisting of not more than ten per cent. of the total number of members in the Legislative Assembly, with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Lieutenant Governor in the exercise of his functions in relation to matters with respect to which the Legislative Assembly has power to make laws, except in so far as he is, by or under any law, required to act in his discretion…
Provided that in the case of difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and his Ministers on any matter, the Lieutenant Governor shall refer it to the President for decision and act according to the decision given thereon by the President and pending such decision it shall be competent for the Lieutenant Governor in any case where the matter, in his opinion, is so urgent that it is necessary for him to take immediate action, to take such action or to give such direction in the matter as he deems necessary.
Question from AAP follower: Is the role & responsibilities of LG of Delhi and governor is not very different especially in context of “There shall be council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion. (Article 163).”
Agreed, but the discretionary role of the Lt. Gov is far more than the governor of a state, which brings us back to the point that Delhi is not a state, so comparisons with the federal structure that exists in respect to states and the union is misplaced. Delhi is a union territory. It also clearly and unambiguously mentions in a previous clause that the administrator for the NCT of Delhi would be the Lieutenant Governor.
[21st December, 1991.] An Act further to amend the Constitution of India. Be it enacted by Parliament in the Forty-second Year of the Republic of India as follows:-
- Short title and commencement.- (1) This Act may be called the Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991. (2) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.
- Insertion of new articles 239AA and 239AB.- After article 239A of the Constitution, the following articles shall be inserted, namely:- `239AA. Special provisions with respect to Delhi.-(1) As from the date of commencement of THE CONSTITUTION (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act,1991, the Union territory of Delhi shall be called the National Capital Territory of Delhi (hereafter in this Part referred to as the National Capital Territory) and the administrator thereof appointed under article 239 shall be designated as the Lieutenant Governor.
He is not the governor, he is Lt. Governor and the administrator of Delhi, which means head of administration. Provisions given in the constitution for governors do not apply to him as a special article mentioning his roles and responsibilities was introduced by the 69th amendment.
Delhi and Pondicherry are two Union Territories that have CMs. In Pondicherry this model has been running quite peacefully. Delhi too had a long and stable relationship with this model, with Congress govt. not ready to voice opinion against a constitutional provision that they themselves had brought.
BJP when in power in Delhi had raised the issue of full statehood. Arvind Kejriwal should demand that too, but not in this crass manner that he has currently chosen to. He should properly demand full statehood for Delhi, as he has the mandate for it. Not just the law, even the constitution will have to be amended to grant full statehood to Delhi. But the AAP can’t achieve this by alienating the central government. Only the Parliament can make that law, and AAP’s presence in Parliament is negligible.
Arvind Kejriwal should pick his battles carefully and make measured remarks. Squabbling with the LG over staff appointments when administrative appointments are under his discretionary role, should not be made an issue. It just looks ugly. Here is a tweet which tells all in few words.
The AAP government would be well advised to control its enthusiasm and go about things in a measured, dignified manner. If Kejriwal wants all powers of a chief minister, then he better start conducting himself like a chief minister ought to, and not come across as a clown.