In a bitter face-off, Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung on Friday appointed senior bureaucrat Shakuntala Gamlin as acting Chief Secretary of the city government notwithstanding strong reservations by the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation which termed the decision as “unconstitutional”.
The Lt Governor gave the additional charge of Chief Secretary to Gamlin, a 1984-batch IAS officer, hours after she wrote a scathing letter to Jung claiming that she was pressured by a senior bureaucrat in CM’s office to withdraw from the race for the post due to her alleged proximity to BSES discoms.
Chief Secretary K K Sharma has left for the US on a personal visit due to which the government had to appoint an acting Chief Secretary. Gamlin is currently serving as Power Secretary.
Slamming the move, the AAP government said the LG cannot bypass the elected government and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and that he acted against “the Constitution, GNCT of Delhi Act and the Transaction of Business Rules”.
Jung promptly rebutted the AAP government’s allegations saying under Article 239 AA of the Constitution of India, the the Lt Governor is the representative of State Authority in Delhi.
“The file for the posting of the officiating Chief Secretary was submitted to the Lt Governor on the evening of May 13 and was cleared immediately. He approved the name of Shakuntala Gamlin as against the name proposed by the Chief Minister considering she was senior and has a proven track record.
“The name proposed by the Chief Minister did not figure in the list of names submitted by the Services Department and the concerned officer has not even been given a posting by the Delhi government so far,” the LG office said in a statement.
It said there was nothing on file submitted to the Lt Governor that indicated that the government had anything against Gamlin and he “regrets” that “the name of a senior officer being brought in public domain in such a manner, that too a lady officer and one belonging to the North East”.
After Gamlin was given additional charge of Chief Secretary, the city government accused the LG of by-passing the Chief Minister and the elected government and said he does not have extraordinary power.
“The Lt Governor by-passed the elected Government, the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister (who also acts as the Minister in-charge of Services department). The Lt Governor does not have the extraordinary powers under the Constitution to bypass the elected Government and issue instructions directly to the Secretaries, whatever be the provocation,” the city government said in a statement.
It said Jung, in an “extraordinary manner”, issued instructions directly to the Secretary (Services) to give the additional charge of Chief Secretary to Gamlin.
The government said it had certain reservations about the conduct of Gamlin because of which it was hesitant to give the additional charge to her.
“She was perceived to be extremely close to electricity companies in Delhi and was lobbying for their interests within the Government. However, the Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor, in a completely unconstitutional manner appointed Shakuntala Gamlin, to this position,” the government said.
In her letter to Jung, Gamlin accused Kejriwal’s Secretary Rajendra Kumar of making a telephone call asking her not be in the race for the post. She also accused the AAP government of casting aspersions on her integrity to service and levelling false charges.
In the statement, the LG’s office said Jung had to order the Services Department to make the appointment since the office of the Chief Secretary cannot be left inordinately vacant and the Chief Minister had not cleared the file that had the Lt Governor’s advice for over 36 hours.
Senior bureaucrats Naini Jayaseelan, IAS officer of 1980 batch, Arvind Ray and S P Singh were in race for acting Chief Secretary’s post.
Interestingly, Gamlin was initially one of the shortlisted officials for acting Chief Secretary’s post. In her letter to Jung, Gamlin had alleged the government of putting enormous pressure on her not to vie for the post.
Today’s confrontation comes in the backdrop of a series of conflicts between the Lt Governor and the Chief Minister.
During AAP’s first stint, Jung had advised the Delhi Assembly Speaker against allowing tabling of the Jan Lokpal Bill saying the bill does not have the required clearance for introduction. However, AAP had gone ahead and tabled it.
Recently, Kejriwal issued directions to ministers and senior officials of Delhi government not to send files pertaining to police, public order and land to Jung’s office.
Reacting strongly to the directive, Jung sought to stamp his authority by directing top officials to route all important files through him as per constitutional framework and laid down procedures.
The LG also made it clear that the role of the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers was to aid and advise him while he was entitled to act solely on his own discretion.
After the Lok Sabha elections, the AAP had accused Jung of acting at the behest of BJP government at the Centre when he did not heed to Kejriwal’s demand of dissolving the assembly.
In November last year, Jung had recommended to the President dissolution of the Assembly after BJP, AAP and Congress had expressed inability to form government and preferred holding of polls. Assembly polls were held in Delhi in February.