The Supreme Court questioned the Central Government on Tuesday (28 November) about its insistence on retaining one person as the Chief Secretary to the Delhi Government.
This inquiry arose when the Centre expressed its intention to extend the tenure of the current Delhi Chief Secretary, Naresh Kumar, who is set to retire on 30 November.
The bench, consisting of CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra, also requested the Central Government to present the legal basis and reasons for extending the chief secretary's tenure.
During the previous hearing, the Apex Court had suggested that the Delhi LG and the Union Government propose a panel of names for the Chief Secretary post, from which the Delhi Government could choose.
However, the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, representing the Central Government, informed the court that the plan was to extend the tenure of the current Chief Secretary, Naresh Kumar.
Senior Advocate AM Singhvi, representing the Delhi Government, strongly opposed the suggestion, citing a lack of trust between the current chief secretary and the Delhi government. Singhvi argued that unilaterally extending the term without the involvement of the Delhi government could not be considered valid.
Singhvi argued that the court should not strictly adhere to the existing law, as the law in question was under challenge, referring to the challenge to the Government of National Capital Territory (Amendment) Act 2023, which has been referred to a Constitution Bench.
He suggested, "I'm not saying appoint our person. I'm saying appoint either the senior most or have the CM and LG sit together or give us a panel of names."
Describing the Chief Secretary as the "linchpin," Singhvi emphasized that the administration could not function without him. The CJI reminded Singhvi that although the Act was under challenge, it had not been stayed by the Supreme Court and was still in effect. However, Singhvi argued that there was nothing specific in the new Act that addressed the post of Chief Secretary.
Responding to this, the CJI told SG, "Are you just stuck with one person? They are saying appoint whoever you want but not him. Are you so stuck?"
The SG replied, citing various administrative reasons for the decision. In response, the Chief Justice of India remarked, "Present the authority and justifications for the extension tomorrow... We are not restricting you to any specific guidelines. You can appoint any IAS officer from the cadre."
The SG indicated that he would seek instructions on this matter.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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