Delhi asks top court to form 5-member panel to hear tussle over services

The Delhi government on Tuesday requested Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana to constitute a five-judge bench to decide whether the Centre or Delhi’s elected government has the power to transfer and appoint bureaucrats in the Capital.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, made the request before the CJI, saying the issue required an urgent hearing. “It is very urgent. Please list it,” Singhvi said.

The CJI responded: “We will”. Justice Ramana, however, did not specify any date of hearing.

On May 6, a three-judge bench, headed by the CJI, preferred a larger bench to adjudicate finally on interpretation of Article 239AA(3), which outlines the power of the AAP government to make laws to administer Delhi. It had then also said that the matter would likely come up for a hearing before a constitution bench on May 11. However, the case has not been listed since then.

This order paved the way for another Constitution bench to delve into the power tussle between the Centre and the Delhi government, four years after the curtains were drawn on the first round. The previous constitution bench was set up in 2017.

In May, the bench held that the previous five-judge constitution bench verdict in 2018 did not provide authoritative interpretation of certain parts of Article 239AA(3), which led to rival contentions from both sides with respect to their power to control bureaucrats in the national capital.

The bench, in its order, also clarified that the new five-judge bench shall adjudicate the limited issue relating to ‘services’ in Delhi. It added that the new bench shall adjudge and interpret the impact of Article 239AA(3)(a) of the Constitution, with respect to Entry 41 in the State List.

Article 239AA provides the framework for the exercise of legislative powers by the legislative assembly of the Union Territory of Delhi and the Parliament in respect of Delhi. Entry 41 of the List-II (State List) authorises a state government to frame laws on state public services and state public service commission.