Minister Manish Sisodia had said Arvind Kejriwal would be authorized to transfer officials.
New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appeared headed for another confrontation with the bureaucracy after the city government's top official rejected his order to give back the power to transfer officers. Officers should implement the top court's order, Mr Kejriwal said, warning that "open defiance" would lead to "serious" consequences. Mr Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party had hoped the Supreme Court's ruling that "real power" in a democracy lies with the elected government would be enough to persuade officials to fall in line.
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Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who had first put out the new rule on transfer of officials, followed up on Mr Kejriwal's public message. He sent the order once rejected by the government's chief secretary back to the department, telling the top official to "abide by the order else face contempt of court".
"The chief secretary has written to me saying the services department will not follow the orders. If they are not going to abide by it and the transfer files will still be seen by the LG then it will amount to contempt of the constitution bench. We are consulting our lawyers," an angry Manish Sisodia said on Thursday.
Arvind Kejriwal also wrote a long letter to Lt Governor to seek his support. He made a pointed reference to the court order's portions that stressed there was no need for the chief minister to get the Lt Governor's concurrence in every case. Mr Kejriwal and Mr Baijal have agreed to talk about it across the table on Friday.
But the officials are not going to change their stand unless they get clear orders from the union home ministry which lays down the ground rules. That is unlikely to happen. The note from the Services department said the Supreme Court didn't cancel the union home ministry notification in May 2015 - months after AAP swept the elections and took power - assigning the job of transferring and posting bureaucrats to the Lieutenant governor.
Officials say the Kejriwal government cannot jump the gun and the five-judge bench had only interpreted the constitution in its judgment. Now smaller benches of the Supreme Court will take up different petitions filed by the AAP government in light of the findings of the constitution bench.
In a series of tweets this morning, AAP said: "The LG can't do transfers as per orders of the Supreme Court and the officers insist they will not obey (Mr Sisodia's) orders till the home ministry notification explicitly quashed. So, will there be no transfer orders in Delhi from now till decision of Division Bench?"
The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the Lt Governor has no "independent decision-making power" beyond land, police and public order, and has to act on the aid and advice of the elected government, which has the real power.
Union minister Arun Jaitley, in a Facebook post, said the AAP government's "presumption" that the Supreme Court judgement gave it administrative powers over union territory cadre officers was "wholly erroneous".
The services department, which appoints and posts officials, has been a key trigger for the AAP-Lt Governor feud in the past three years. The first major face-off was over the Lt Governor appointing bureaucrat Shakuntala Gamlin as interim chief secretary despite strong objections from Mr Kejriwal and AAP. Since then, Mr Kejriwal and his ministers have routinely objected to officials being posted or shifted without the Lt Governor consulting the Delhi government.
AAP considering to a big win when the top court said "The cabinet must convey all decisions to the Lieutenant Governor but his concurrence is not required in all matters." The court also said the Lt Governor must not be "obstructionist" and "should not act in a mechanical manner and stall decisions of the Delhi cabinet".