MHA has issued orders effecting the six-month tenure extension of Delhi Chief Secretary after the Supreme Court upheld the authority of the Centre on the issue. In a major setback to the AAP government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday permitted the Centre to extend the tenure of Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar, a day before he was set to demit office on November 30, for six months, holding that the union government's decision did not violate law or the ConstitutionA bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra held, prima facie, the Centre has the power to appoint and extend the tenure of the chief secretary of the national capital territory of Delhi as the officer deals with the entire administration including police, public order and land, which fall beyond the legislative and executive powers of the Delhi government.
"We come to the conclusion that at this stage, bearing in mind the provisions of the judgement of this court in Constitution Bench 2 (2023 judgement on Centre-Delhi government services row) and the subsequent developments which have taken place resulting in the enactment of the amendment to the GNCTD Act 1991, the decision of the Union Government to extend the services of the incumbent chief secretary for a period of six months cannot be construed to be violative of law or the constitutional distribution of powers between the Union and the government of the GNCTD," the bench said in its order.
The bid to extend the tenure of the present chief secretary is the latest bone of contention between the Arvind Kejriwal government and Lieutenant Governor (LG) V K Saxena, who have been involved in a series of run-ins over various issues. Significantly, the current chief secretary, whose tenure will now be extended, is reportedly not on good terms with the Delhi government owing to allegations against his son in a case related to acquisition of 19 acres by the National Highways Authority of India in 2018 for construction of the Dwarka Expressway.
"It will be farfetched to postulate that the central government is divested of the power to appoint the chief secretary. We clarify that this is on the basis of a prima facie evaluation," the bench said.
It also held that the central government, prima facie, has the power to extend the service of an incumbent chief secretary.
The top court, in its order, referred to the May 11 judgement of a five-judge constitution bench which had held that the Delhi government has legislative and executive powers over administration of services except for public order, police and land. The verdict was touted as a big victory for the AAP government.
The bench also noted the subsequent developments such as promulgation of an ordinance by the Centre that took back full control over services, and the passage of the Government of NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act 2023 in Parliament.
The bench said the tenure of chief secretaries are normally extended at the recommendation of the state governments concerned, but the position of the top bureaucrat in the Delhi government is distinct.
"The position of the chief secretary of the GNCTD is significantly distinct and that the chief secretary performs executive functions related to subjects which fall within the executive and legislative competence of the GNCTD as well as those which lie outside," it said. The court noted that the operation of the amended GNCTD Act, whose validity is under challenge before a constitution bench, has not been stayed and hence, the Centre has the power to appoint a new chief secretary or extend the tenure of the incumbent officer.