AAP govt shuffles bureaucracy, seeks powers to impeach L-G Najeeb Jung

Arvind KejriwalFresh from a court victory in its shadow fight with the central government and a bitter spat with Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung over the appointment of bureaucrats in the national capital, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has transferred or reassigned nine bureaucrats.

The AAP government also today cleared a resolution seeking powers to impeach the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) after relations between L-G Najeeb Jung and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal hit rock bottom over the contentious issue of bureaucratic appointments.

The AAP leader also today met with Lieutenant-Governor Jung, a day after the Delhi High Court ruled that the Kejriwal government has the right to investigate and prosecute officials of the Delhi Police, which is controlled by the centre.

The home ministry had issued an order in July last year limiting the powers of the ACB to only employees of the Delhi government.

The Delhi High Court on Monday came down against the central government's move to curtail powers of the Delhi chief minister. The court had also described as "suspect" a notification issued last week by the union home ministry limiting the area of operation for the chief minister.

The resolution pushed by deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia was ratified on the first day of a special assembly session that was called to discuss the union home ministry notification giving absolute powers to the L-G in the appointment and transfer of bureaucrats and issues of police and public order.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been involved in a bitter spat with Najeeb Jung over the appointment of bureaucrats in the national capital, also today met the Lieutenant-Governor.

In the meeting, which lasted for around 20 minutes, Kejriwal is reported to have apprised Jung of the high court ruling about the powers of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and his views on the issue.

This is the first meeting between the two since the confrontation began.

The AAP leader's meeting with Jung came a day after the Delhi High Court ruled that the Kejriwal government has the right to investigate and prosecute officials of the Delhi Police, which is controlled by the centre.

On Monday, Kejriwal hit out at the Narendra Modi government over its order concerning the powers of the city's elected government, saying it had also taken away the powers of the ACB to probe central government staff.

The Delhi government's problems arise because of its special status as both a state and a union territory functioning as the capital. The state government also has no powers over several important departments and agencies that function under the Lieutenant-Governor, who reports to the centre.

''Tomorrow the central government can say that you don't have control over the sources of water so you can't supply water to the city,'' deputy chief minister Sisodia said. ''The issuance of the notification is an insult to the biggest mandate given by Delhi's people.''

The AAP scored a landslide victory in this year's Delhi elections, winning 67 of the capital's 70 seats with promises to uproot corruption and offer of cheap water and power.

The NDA government's notification barred Delhi's anti-corruption branch (ACB) from registering cases against officers and political functionaries of the central government.

However, the Delhi high court ruled on Monday that the ACB had the authority to investigate central government officials, including the city's police personnel.

Kejriwal declared the verdict a "huge embarrassment" for the centre, which is today reportedly consulting with Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on how to proceed.

Kejriwal, who won a spectacular victory in February's election, says that the centre is trying to run Delhi through Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung, who had announced that the appointment of bureaucrats was his sole prerogative.

Last week, the Lieutenant-Governor said any postings of bureaucrats directed by the chief minister in Delhi are invalid.

The Kejriwal government, on its part, had locked out of office a bureaucrat selected by the Lieutenant-Governor.

In Delhi, the central government controls land and the police and a solution to the present crisis is unlikely unless the centre backs off or Delhi is turned into a full state.