ACB can act against Delhi police

Anti-corruption Branch (ACB)

The Delhi High Court recently ruled that the Delhi government’s Anti-corruption Branch (ACB) has the jurisdiction to arrest police personnel. The ruling comes in the middle of a high-stakes jurisdiction battle between the Delhi and the Union government.

Background:

  • In July 2014 notification, the Union Government had said that the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Delhi government could file cases against only its officials and not against those of the Union government.
  • Following this, the Delhi Assembly, in March, passed a unanimous resolution against the July 2014 notification, alleging that it diluted the powers of the said anti-graft body.

Context:

The court’s recent ruling was part of a judgment denying bail to a head constable arrested by the ACB on a bribery charge. The Constable had contested his arrest, pointing to a notification passed by the Home Ministry last July saying the Branch’s jurisdiction extended only to employees of the Delhi government. It was contested that entries 1 and 2 on the State List of the Constitution — Public Order and Police — stood excluded from the legislative competence of the Delhi government under the Constitution.

Observations made by the Court:

  • The court has said that the Centre’s notification barring the ACB from acting against Union government employees was suspect as it could not exercise executive power over matters falling under the legislative competence of the Delhi government.
  • The Court observed that the State government was empowered to make laws in respect of matters on the Concurrent List and as such, with regard to entries 1 and 2 (Criminal Law and Code of Criminal Procedure), the Lieutenant-Governor could not act in his discretion and was bound to act upon the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
  • The Court also said that the Members of the Legislative Assembly are directly elected by the citizens from territorial constituencies in the NCT of Delhi, and the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly. The mandate of the people, with whom the sovereign power resides, must be respected by the Lieutenant Governor.

What experts say?

Senior lawyers say that the powers of the State government to investigate corruption stemmed not from the State List but from the Concurrent List (matters under both the State and the Union governments). Entries 1 and 2 on the Concurrent List covered criminal law, including all matters included in the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure at the commencement of this Constitution. Offenses of corruption, now covered under the Prevention of Corruption Act, were originally part of the IPC and could, therefore, be investigated by the State government.

The high court’s order came amid a bitter tussle between the AAP government and the Lt Governor over posting and transfers of senior officials as well as some other contentious issues.

Sources: The Hindu.

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