Challenge to Delhi Service Ordinance | Day 1Challenge to Union’s Ordinance on Control of Delhi’s Administration
On May 11th, 2023, a 5-Judge Constitution Bench held that the Delhi government must have the power to control civil servants in the NCT of Delhi. The Bench emphasised the importance of a federal governance structure and highlighted the NCT’s unique status.
A week later, the Union issued an Ordinance that barred the Delhi government from making laws on services regardless of what ‘any court’ says. Further, it created a 3-member body, called the National Capital Civil Service Authority (the Authority), which will control civil servants in the NCT of Delhi. This Authority will comprise two Union appointees and the Chief Minister of Delhi and will make all decisions through internal voting. Most notably, the Authority’s decisions must be approved by the Lieutenant Governor who will have the ‘sole discretion’ to override it.
On 26th June, 2023, the Government of NCT Delhi filed a Writ Petition before the SC challenging the Ordinance.
Sr. Adv. A.M. Singhvi: The Ordinance Violates the ‘Triple Chain of Command’
Sr. Adv. Dr. Abhishek Manu Sinhgvi appearing for the Delhi Government began the day’s arguments. He highlighted the Union’s Ordinance breached the ‘triple chain of command’ as held by the SC in its May 11th Judgement. This means that civil servants are accountable to ministers who are in turn accountable to the voters—creating the triple chain.
Dr. Singhvi claimed that the creation of the 3-member committee with the Chief Minister of Delhi in the minority breaches the triple chain and the principles of federalism and local governance. He urged the Court to issue a stay on the Ordinance as an interim relief. He also cited several instances where the top court had issued interim stays on legislations that directly nullified a Supreme Court judgement.
The Recent Dismissal of 437 Independent Consultants
Dr. Singhvi pointed out that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) had recently dismissed as many as 437 independent consultants appointed by the Delhi government According to him, these included graduates from reputed institutions like Harvard and Oxford. He claimed that their pay was stopped and urged for a stay to be issued on their dismissals.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Union responded stating that none of the persons dismissed had approached the Court. Dr. Singhvi however, retorted by pointing out that their employer—NCT of Delhi had approached the Court and that the dismissals were a result of the Ordinance.
Sr. Adv. Sanjay Jain appearing for the Lieutenant Governor informed the Bench that they had not been made a party to these proceedings. The Bench allowed the petition to be amended to include them.
The Bench allowed the petitioners to file an interim application seeking a stay on the Ordinance. They stated that the respondents had the time to file a brief affidavit in response to the application. The case will be heard on July 17th, 2023.