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Sikri, UU Lalit to hear Centre's plea on AAP gov't Delhi powers on Friday

The Supreme Court will hear on Friday the central government’s plea challenging the Delhi high court verdict (click to read judgment) which described as “suspect” the May 21 central notification on the Delhi government powers.

The notification barred the Delhi government from proceeding against central government employees working under it and held that the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Delhi government could not act against errant police officials under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The high court, while holding that the Lt. Governor should respect the popular mandate and “must act” on the aid and advice of the council of ministers, said that there were no fetters on the legislative power of the legislative assembly of the National Capital Territory (NCT) in respect of matters in concurrent list.

The apex court vacation bench of Justice AK Sikri and Justice UU Lalit on Thursday said they will hear the matter on Friday after Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh told the court that the high court made certain observations while interpreting the Article 239AA, which have created total uncertainty in the administration.

Seeking an urgent intervention of the court to review what is the correct position, Maninder Singh said the high court says that “Lt. Governor has no powers” and has to act on the aid and advise of the Delhi government.

The ASG told the apex court that the high court made these observations in the course of the hearing of a bail application by a head constable arrested under the Prevention of corruption Act by the Anti-Corruption Branch (ABC) of the Delhi government.

Framing ten question of law covering the high court verdict, the Centre in its petition has contended that the high court could not have held that the May 21 notification ejecting the Delhi government’s ACB from acting against officers, employees and functionaries of the Central Government was a “suspect” without giving it an opportunity of stating its position on the issue.

Assailing the high court judgment, the Centre in its petition has contended that the high court was wrong in holding that there were “no fetters” on the legislative powers of the Delhi assembly for enacting laws on the subjects in the concurrent list.

“The constitutional status of the NCTD is not the same as that of a State; It is a centrally administered territory of the Union” and its “legislative and executive powers are restricted constitutionally.”

The Centre said the high court failed to appreciate that under Article 239AA (3)(a) (Article 239AA - Special provisions with respect to Delhi) empowers the Delhi assembly only in respect of the powers vested in it and not otherwise.

It has been further contended by the Centre that the high court did not appreciate that the National Capital Territory of Delhi was a centrally administered territory with constitutionally restricted legislative and executive powers and the same could not be equated with that of the states (under Article 152 of the Constitution).

The Centre has also contended that May 21 notification which the high court described as “suspect” was never before it for examination.

It said the high court reserved its order on Head Constable Anil Kumar’s bail application on May 20 and the notification was issued on May 21.

The high court’s observations on the powers of the Lt. Governor, the Delhi government, Delhi assembly and May 21 notification came while deciding a bail application of Anil Kumar who was arrested by the ACB under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Anil Kumar has contested his arrest contending that the ACB has no jurisdiction over him.

Ruling on the bail plea of Anil Kumar, the court said: “Since the applicant is a Delhi Police personnel serving the citizens in the NCTD and the functions of the Delhi Police personnel substantially and essentially relate to the affairs of the GNCTD, in my view, the ACB of the GNCTD has the jurisdiction to entertain and act on a complaint under the PC Act in respect of a Delhi Police officer or official, and to investigate and prosecute the crime.”

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