Chief Minister Shri Arvind Kejriwal addressed a press conference on Wednesday after meeting with CPI General Secretary Shri D Raja. During the press conference, he explained the fatality of the Centre’s ordinance and pointed out several provisions that will effectively render the elected government redundant.
Speaking at the press conference, Chief Minister Shri Arvind Kejriwal lambasted the draconian anti-Delhi ordinance imposed by the central government and described it as a blatant power grab that has wreaked havoc on the city. The CM highlighted several nuances of the Ordinance that have shifted all powers to the Central government and made the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) completely redundant. The CM argued that the ordinance not only overturns multiple judgements of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court but also completely cripples the functioning of the GNCTD. To this end, the CM said that after this ordinance, if we were to sum up this ordinance in one line, it would be, “From now on, Arvind Kejriwal will no longer be the CM of Delhi. The new CM of Delhi will be Narendra Modi and he shall take all decisions regarding Delhi government”.
The CM elaborated on one of the provisions in the ordinance that empowers the central government to control the appointments of chairpersons and members of various commissions, boards, corporations, and statutory authorities in the Delhi government. Expressing his concerns, CM Shri Arvind Kejriwal stated that through these bodies, the central government will effectively run all sectors of Delhi, even though they fall under the jurisdiction of the state government.
For instance, transport sector in Delhi is run by Delhi Transport Corporation, water sector is run by Delhi Jal Board, industry sector is administered by Delhi State Industrial Development Corporation, tourism sector is run by Delhi Transport and Tourism Development Corporation, women safety is overseen by Delhi Women Commission, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights protects child rights etc. There is a statutory body or Commission for each sector. This move effectively transfers decision-making authority for over 50 such bodies responsible for governing Delhi across sectors to the Central government. Through these bodies, the Central Government will effectively run all these sectors. This undermines the principles of federalism and erodes the autonomy of the elected government.
This provision further overturns one more judgement of the Supreme Court. Last month, SC had passed orders that in the matter of appointment of chairman of DERC, LG is bound by aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. This order of SC has also been reversed by this Ordinance. Therefore, appointment of chairperson and members of DERC will now be done by the Centre.
The ordinance also alters the power dynamics within the government machinery. It grants secretaries of departments the authority to determine the legality of directions issued by ministers, effectively making them the ultimate decision-makers. The CM expressed his dismay, saying that the ordinance practically hands over entire governance in the hands of bureaucrats to the exclusion of Ministers through its provisions. It then gives control over bureaucrats to the central government through control over services and vigilance. Thus, effectively, the central government acquires complete control over the Delhi government through this ordinance.
The ordinance says that now the secretary of any department will decide the legality of any directions issued by the Minister. The secretary may refuse to implement any directions saying that he feels they are illegal and shall inform the CM and LG. Till now, the Minister was responsible for the affairs of his department and written directions issued by a Minister were binding on the officers. But now, the Secretary of a department has been made an effective boss, who would decide which directions of the Minister to follow. He can refuse to follow directions of a Minister on the excuse that it is illegal. “This is creating havoc in the administration. Now, secretaries have started disobeying written directions of their ministers giving flimsy excuses that they find it illegal. For instance, the Secretary Vigilance has practically declared himself as independent authority and says that he is accountable to none. He refuses to follow work allocation orders and standing orders issued by the Minister saying that after the ordinance, he is not accountable to the Minister and that the Minister does not have powers to issue any orders. Likewise, he says he is accountable to LG only through the National Capital Services Authority (hereinafter called authority). Therefore, for his day to day functions, he claims he is not accountable to anyone,” he said.
In another similar example, it came to the notice of a Minister that due to connivance, a case was not argued properly in Delhi High Court. The minister ordered that in the next hearing, a good senior advocate should be engaged. The Secretary to the department declared this direction of the Minister as illegal saying that it was the prerogative of the Secretary to engage an advocate.
There are many similar examples of defiance and insubordination coming in from other departments also. This provision has created an opportunity for widespread insubordination, the CM argued. When an officer refuses to follow written orders, the elected government can’t do anything because after this ordinance, the government again has no control over the officers. It has become impossible to run day to day governance.
Highlighting another draconian provision in the Ordinance, the CM said that till now, it was the responsibility of a Minister to finalise a cabinet note, if any matter was to be placed before the cabinet. Now, through the ordinance, this responsibility has been shifted to the Secretary. The secretary and not the Minister will henceforth finalise any cabinet note. It has created a very awkward situation. If the elected government wishes to bring any scheme or agenda or program to the Cabinet and if the Secretary refuses, the government will now not be able to bring it to the Cabinet. There is so much pressure from the central government on Delhi’s bureaucrats not to implement the AAP government’s agenda and programs that many times, they are scared to sign cabinet notes. In such situations, in the past, cabinet notes were brought to the cabinet under the Minister’s signatures. Now the Ministers will not be able to bring any agenda to the Cabinet if the secretary refuses to sign.
As per the CM, yet another shocking provision in this ordinance is that the Chief Secretary has been given power to sit in judgement over Cabinet’s decisions. If the Cabinet takes any decision, the Chief Secretary has been given overriding powers over the Cabinet to decide whether the decision is legal or not. It should be noted that all cabinet notes are vetted by legal experts in the law department before being brought to the Cabinet. Then what will the Chief Secretary decide? Obviously, this is a handle using which the central government can get any cabinet decision overturned through the Chief Secretary. The provision says that the Chief Secretary will decide whether a Cabinet decision is legal or not and if he feels that any decision is illegal, he may refer it to LG who will take the final decision.
Further, the ordinance also grants unrestrained veto powers to the LG over every matter. Till now, as has been held by two consecutive Constitution Bench judgments of the Supreme Court (2018 and 2023), Delhi’s LG did not have any independent decision making power over all matters that fall in the domain of the elected government. If the LG differed from any decision of the Council of Ministers, he could only refer the matter to the President. However, through this ordinance, LG has been given the power to alter or reject any decision of the Cabinet.
“Therefore, the elected government has been made completely redundant. All powers have been shifted to bureaucracy and control over bureaucrats will lie with the central government,” the CM said.
CM further said that after this ordinance, if we were to sum up this ordinance in one line, it would be, “From now on, Arvind Kejriwal will no longer be the CM of Delhi. The new CM of Delhi will be Narendra Modi and he shall take all decisions regarding Delhi government”.
Notably, on 19th May 2023, the Centre had promulgated an ordinance stating that it was the Lieutenant Governor who had the final say on transfers and postings of Delhi bureaucrats, and not the Delhi government, contradicting the Supreme Court order which was rendered on 11th May 2023. The ordinance has been brought in as an amendment to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 and has called for the formation of a ‘National Capital Civil Services Authority’ that will be a small stakeholder in the decision regarding transfers and postings of bureaucrats serving in the national capital. This ordinance effectively overturns the Supreme Court judgement which had said that the “real power of administration resides in the elected arm of the State”. The five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, led by CJI DY Chandrachud, had said that “a constitutionally entrenched and democratically elected government needs to have control over its administration”.