Supreme Court okays Centre’s proposal to grant Delhi Chief Secretary six months’ extension of service

The duties of the Delhi Chief Secretary straddle subjects both within and outside the legislative and executive competence of the Delhi government, say the court

November 29, 2023 08:56 pm | Updated 09:17 pm IST - NEW DELHI

 Delhi Lt. Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena (R) with Chief Secretary of Delhi Naresh Kumar (L). File.

Delhi Lt. Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena (R) with Chief Secretary of Delhi Naresh Kumar (L). File. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The Supreme Court on November 29 upheld the Centre’s proposal to give a six-month extension of service to Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar a day before he was due to retire on November 30.

“At this stage, the decision of the Union government to extend the services of the incumbent Chief Secretary for six months cannot be construed to be violative of the law or constitutional distribution of powers between the Union government and the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD),” a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said.

The Delhi government, represented by senior advocate A.M. Singhvi and advocate Shadan Farasat, had challenged the Centre’s “unilateral” proposal on the ground that Rule 16 of the All India Services (Death Cum Retirement) Benefits Rules, 1958 required the State government to make a recommendation for the six-month extension with the prior approval of the Union government.

The Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, had countered that the Ministry of Home Affairs, and not the State, was the controlling authority of the Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre of Indian Administrative Service (IAS)/Indian Police Service (IPS).

The court, in a detailed order, said the duties of the Delhi Chief Secretary straddle subjects both within and outside the legislative and executive competence of the Delhi government. The subjects outside the GNCTD’s purview included police, land, and public order.

The court agreed with the Centre that the Delhi Chief Secretary, unlike his counterparts in States, was “entrusted with significant functional responsibilities, which includes the overall administrative control and supervision over subjects which stand excluded from the legislative domain and executive powers of the GNCTD”.

“Consequently, the restrictions which operate in the grant of extension under Rule 16 of the 1958 Rules about Chief Secretaries of State government would not stricto sensu apply in relation to GNCTD,” the Bench, which also comprised Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, held.

However, the court said Rule 16 would undoubtedly apply in relation to the extension of service of other officers of the GNCTD whose functions did not apply to any of the subjects excluded, including public order, police and land, and those relatable to these three subjects in the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

The court said the analysis of the case concerning the extension of service of the Delhi Chief Secretary would not be a conclusive determination of the pending challenge to the legality of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2023 before a Constitution Bench.

The decision of the Supreme Court came 24 hours after it had asked the Centre to justify its proposal to extend the tenure of Mr. Kumar.

The court had even asked whether the Union was “stuck with just one IAS officer”.

Mr. Singhvi had sought a fresh appointment, saying there was an “absolute breach of communication, trust and faith of any kind between the incumbent Chief Secretary and the Delhi government”.

Mr. Mehta, on the other hand, had argued that Section 45A of the 2023 Act made civil services the exclusive domain of the GNCTD.

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