The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the Centre 24 hours to justify its “unilateral” decision to extend the tenure of Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar while asking if the Union was “stuck with just one IAS officer”.
Mr. Kumar is retiring on November 30.
The Centre wants to extend his tenure for a “limited time” while the Delhi government, represented by senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, on the other hand, wants a fresh face as there was a “absolute breach of communication, trust and faith of any kind between the Chief Secretary and the Delhi government”.
Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, heading a three-judge Bench, asked Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, to show from the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2023, the Union’s power to grant Mr. Kumar such an extension and the grounds under which such a tenure furlough could be given.
“Or you (Centre) can let this man superannuate and make a fresh appointment… Don’t you have an IAS officer who can be appointed as Chief Secretary?” the Chief Justice asked Mr. Mehta.
The Solicitor-General argued that the 2023 Act gave the Centre a statutory authority over the civil services in the national capital.
“Section 45A of the Act makes civil services our exclusive domain,” Mr. Mehta submitted.
The court agreed that it has still not stayed the 2023 Act, and technically it was the law now. But the CJI questioned whether the statutory power of the Centre under the Act extended to extending the tenure of an officer after his retirement.
Mr. Singhvi said the court had, in the previous hearing, asked the Centre to prepare a panel of accomplished bureaucrats from which the Delhi government could pick a name for appointment as Chief Secretary. However, this was not done.
The Delhi government had even offered to sit with the Lieutenant Governor to zero in on a name.
“None of this was done by them… So, is there nobody in the IAS except this one person to do your bidding?” Mr. Singhvi challenged.
The court scheduled the case for November 29.