As the Centre on Tuesday submitted that it wanted to extend the tenure of the Delhi chief secretary who is due to retire on November 30, the Supreme Court sought to know under which power it can do so and quipped if it was “stuck with only one person” and didn’t have any other IAS officer for the post.
The apex court asked the Central government to inform it on Wednesday about the grounds on which it wanted to extend the tenure of Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar by six more months.
During a hearing on a Delhi government’s plea, a bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud suggested that Kumar should be allowed to superannuate and a fresh appointment should be made. At the same time, it also noted that the Centre held the power under the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act to make the appointment and there was no stay on it.
“This man is superannuating. Let this man superannuate. You make a fresh appointment,” the bench said. The court was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that the government intends to extend the tenure of the existing person, who has been working for more than one-and-a-half year, for a limited period.
As he said even the term of a superannuated person can be extended if the government so wishes, the CJI said, “Are you stuck with only one person?”. “You want to make the appointment, make it. Don’t you have any IAS officer who can be made chief secretary of Delhi? Are you so stuck on one IAS officer?,” the bench also comprising justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said.
The law officer responded, “I am not stuck with only one person” but there were some administrative reasons. The top court asked the Centre to show the power under which it can extend the tenure of the chief secretary.
“Show us the power to extend. And show us what is the ground on which you want to extend. Otherwise, you can appoint whoever you want to, take instructions. “We are not holding you in any direction. You select any IAS officer of your choice who will come here and hold the position of chief secretary,” said the bench, adding it will take up the matter on Wednesday.
The appointment of the chief secretary is the latest bone of contention between Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government and Lieutenant Governor (LG) V K Saxena who have been involved in a series of run-ins over various issues.
The bench was hearing a plea of the Delhi government against any move by the Centre to appoint, without any consultation with it, the new chief secretary or extend the tenure of the current top civil servant Naresh Kumar.
The Delhi government has questioned how the Centre could proceed with the appointment of the chief secretary without any consultation with it while the new law is under challenge. Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, representing the Delhi government, on Tuesday argued there was an absolute breach of communication, trust and faith between this chief secretary and the administration.
He said he was not asking to appoint a person of his choice but the Centre can choose from the senior most five IAS officers or let the LG and CM sit together and decide. On being asked by the bench as to for how long the Centre proposed to extend the tenure of the current chief secretary, Mehta said the decision appeared to be for six months, subject to the court’s order.