Days after Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena approved the temporary dissolution of the Dialogue and Development Commission (DDCD), the Delhi government’s policy think tank, cabinet minister Atishi on Tuesday issued an order declaring that non-official members will continue in their roles despite Saxena’s order. The order on DDCD’s temporary dissolution is “null and void” due to a “patent lack of jurisdiction”, Atishi, who heads the Planning Department, stressed.

Aswathi Muralidharan, Vijay Chandra Vupputuri, and Gopal Mohan are the non-official members of the DDCD, who were removed with immediate effect, as per the order issued last week by the Services Department that comes under the LG.

In her order on Tuesday, Atishi also said that three non-official members will continue and shall remain entitled to salary, offices, official vehicles, and all other perks (which they were entitled to as on June 26). The order by the Services Department was issued on June 27. “Any officer who stops the payment of salaries for DDCD or prevents the provision of perks to these non-official members shall make themselves liable for disciplinary action. This order shall be treated as a stern warning to the Services Department…to refrain from overstepping its jurisdiction, failing which it shall be liable for contempt of the Supreme Court…,” she stated.

Atishi alleged her office (the Planning Department) did not receive any official communication from the LG over the temporary dissolution. “The LG has issued orders approving a proposal regarding working out of the terms of reference and formation of screening-cum-selection committee for the DDCD, in line with the guidelines of NITI Aayog, by the Planning Department in consultation with Administrative Reforms (AR ) Department, and a proposal of Services Department regarding application of Section 45B of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2023, and regarding dissolving the DDCD as an interim measure,” she said in her order.

The Minister said that the non-official members are seated by the Chief Minister and they can be removed with the approval of DDCD chairperson, who is Arvind Kejriwal. The DDCD was set up in 2015 by the Arvind Kejriwal government.

Festive offer

“It is unequivocally clear from the terms of constitution of the DDCD that the sole supervisory jurisdiction and authority over the appointment of and discharge of functions by non-official members is that of the Chief Minister…Each of these gazette notifications were issued after the approval of the then LG… It is abundantly clear that the non-official members are to be appointed directly by the Chief Minister that their term is coterminous with the term of the government and they can be removed only with the approval of the Chairperson, DDCD, who is the Chief Minister,” the order read.

The LG is not vested with any jurisdiction or authority to issue an order to rescind the engagement of these non-official members, she further said. “The Lieutenant Governor and the Services Department have no power or authority over the non-official members of DDCD in any manner whatsoever, be it in respect of their appointment or removal. They do not exercise any supervisory control over the DDCD or its non-official members,” she said.

Atishi further said that the DDCD has been constituted by the elected government which has power over subjects, except “public order, police and land.”

She also said that the Services Department did not have the jurisdiction to issue the “interdicting the functioning of the non-official members,” or the L-G’s order dissolving DDCD. “They (the non-official members) are not a part of the ‘permanent executive’, and, hence, not within the jurisdiction of the Services Department, but at the highest could perhaps be stated to be an extension of the “political executive “” she said.

She further stated that LG does not have any independent decision-making power over transferred subjects. “In such matters, he (the LG) is bound by the aid and advice of the elected government, which exercises exclusive executive powers over transferred subjects, including issues pertaining to the Planning Department, which is the administrative department…”

The Services Department and L-G’s order “are glaring instances of a colourable exercise of power amounting to misuse and abuse of authority, and are ex facie erroneous and fallacious…,” the order issued by Atishi stated, adding that “the order suffers from a patent lack of jurisdiction.”

“….The undersigned is pleased to declare the Service Department’s order and the L-G’s Order as null and void and restore the status quo ante as prevailing on 26.06.2024. Any action pursuant to the Services Order or the LG’s Order without the approval of the Minister (Planning) shall be deemed illegal, and shall make the erring officials liable for disciplinary action,” she further underlined.

The non-officials members, she further underlined, have advised and worked on planning several key schemes of the Delhi government, including free bus ride scheme, safety measures in DTC, electric vehicle subsidy, and Covid management.