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Delhi HC refuses to suspend home ministry order on ACB

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday declined to put on hold the two notifications of the union home ministry that barred the Delhi government’s Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) from acting against the central government officers for criminal offences.

A division bench of Justice S. Murlidhar and Justice I.S. Mehta refused to suspend the notification, saying a similar matter is pending before another bench and tagged it with that public interest litigation (PIL).

“Vacation bench cannot stay the notification, same PIL has already been pending before another bench. Let that bench hear it,” the court said posting the matter for August 5.

The PIL filed by advocates R.S. Raju and V. Sudheer challenged the May 21 notification according to which the Delhi Lt. Governor holds discretionary powers for appointments and transfers to key bureaucratic posts in the capital.

It also challenged the July 23, 2014, notification which limited the Delhi Anti-Corruption Branch’s jurisdiction to Delhi government officials only.

The plea challenged the “constitutional validity” of the May 21 notification, saying that the notification issued by the central government was ultra vires of constitutional provisions, that is Article 239 AA (4), and that it does not have the jurisdiction over matters connected with services of bureaucrats in the national capital.

The plea said: “The power of the Anti-Corruption Bureaus where it exists in other states and union territories to take cognizance of cases of corruption against the police and central government employees in their respective states and union territories is not taken away.”

“The same was thought as not necessary to do so even in Delhi for the last 22 years, therefore, there is no justification to do so in case of Delhi now when the people have given a massive mandate to fight corruption to the government of the NCT of Delhi,” the plea stated.

The advocates argued that the central government is “providing shield to corrupt central government employees” by taking away power of the Delhi ACB.

“By the impugned notifications July 23, 2014, and May 21, the Centre has taken away the power of the government of NCT of Delhi to fight corruption and to take cognizance of cases of corruption in respect of the police and other employees of central government who constitute a large chunk of the citizens of NCT of Delhi,” the PIL added.

Earlier, the Delhi government filed a plea and challenged the notification, which the court refused to put on hold.

A PIL was also filed by a law student on which the court refused to pass any order and posted it for August 5.

The power tussle between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung is rooted in the city’s unique position as a union territory functioning as the capital, with the city government having no say over several important departments and agencies that function under the Lt. Governor, who reports to the central government.