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The Delhi Administrative Crisis


The day before yesterday, the Indian President gave his assent and signature to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Amendment Bill, 2021, transforming itself to an official Act. We need to understand what this act is, why it was brought in, what are going to be or can be its effects, what are various people’s reactions towards it and what lies in the future. The power tussle between the government of Delhi headed by its chief minister and the Central Government headed by the Prime Minister is neither something new nor something we are all unaware about. The Honorable Supreme Court’s Constitution bench delivered a judgement on this issue in 2017 and it appeared that the problem had been solved. But, the passing of the GNCTDAA,2021 and it being signed by the President has revived am issue which had earlier been put to bed for good. The amendment act seeks to widely increase the powers of the Liteunant General of Delhi, making him more powerful than the Government of Delhi. The Act also modified the meaning of the term ‘government’ to mean the Liteunant General whenever used in the context of the administration of the territory of Delhi. This Act has been widely criticized by the members of the opposition with a walkout taking place in the Rajya Sabha and press conference and various statements condemning the bill as ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘anti-democratic’ by various people ranging from the chief minister and the council of ministers of the Delhi Government to the members of the opposition in the parliament.

Overview

In 2017, there was an intense tussle between the Mr. Arvind Kejriwal led Delhi Government and the Central/Union Government over the power of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of the Delhi Government. The Supreme Court stepped in to resolve the matter and gave the judgement that the ACB of the Delhi government did not have the power to probe the employees of the central government. And, that the Centre could appoint an inquiry commission to investigate matters related to Delhi government affairs. The issue continued to increase in magnitude and then in July 2018, a constitution bench of the Supreme Court ruled that the L-G was the “administrative head but can’t act as an obstructionist cannot” and “interfere in every decision of the Delhi government.” While the separation of powers of the L-G and the chief minister was fairly delineated by the Supreme Court judgment. The matters related to the services remained unresolved. The matter is still to be concluded in the Supreme Court.In this background, the Centre has brought the NCT Bill to demarcate the powers of the L-G and the elected government of Delhi.

Reasons For the Amendment :

  1. The amendment act has been brought forward by the parliament i.e., indirectly the Central Government to bring this issue to an end with the Central Government achieving its aim. Under the now previous administrative set of Delhi, flowing from the 1991 Act, the law and order, and the police come under the Union home ministry while administrative affairs fall under the Delhi government.

  2. The amendment act was passed by the parliament in order to change/modify this and was done exercising the power to amend the Constitution of the country endowed on it by Article 368 of the Indian Constitution. The Union Government has said that this amendment is necessary and very crucial for the city of Delhi. The Centre has brought this bill “in the context of the judgment dated 14.02.2019 of Hon’ble Supreme Court (Division bench) in Civil Appeal No 2357 of 2017”.

Impact of the Act

The amendment of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, seeks to better define the role of the Council of Ministers and the lieutenant-governor in Delhi. The amendment act aims to demarcate the powers of the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Delhi and those of the chief minister on the lines of the Supreme Court ruling. This means the L-G will have more powers in Delhi than earlier understood.

This may translate into the curtailment of the powers of the chief minister in Delhi. The new bill provides for the Delhi government to send its legislative proposals to the L-G at least 14 days in advance, and asks the elected government to avoid delays. The L-G holds the power to refer a bill to the Centre/President where he or she disagrees with the elected government of Delhi. There is another provision that says if the L-G considers a matter urgent, he or she can take an immediate decision even if the matter is pending with the President. In 2018, the Supreme Court had held that the elected government of Delhi did not require to obtain L-G’s concurrence on day-to- day affairs of administration but needed to inform the L-G office. Thus, the NCT Bill empowers the L-G to act in his or her discretion in any matter related to the All India (Civil) Services and the Anti-Corruption Bureau, which is beyond the purview of the Legislative Assembly of Delhi. The bill says the validity of any decision taken by the L-G as per such discretion shall not be questioned. Thus, the amendment makes quite a few changes in the administration. In order to summarize or classify the changes made, we can divide the various changes made in the area they belong to as follows: -

  1. Restriction on laws passed by the assembly: - The Bill provides that the term “government” referred to in any law made by the Legislative Assembly will imply Lieutenant Governor (LG).

  2. Rules of procedure of the Assembly: The Act allows the procedure and conduct of business in the Assembly. The Bill provides that such Rules must be consistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha.

  3. Rules of procedure of the Assembly : The Act allows the procedure and conduct of business in the Assembly. The Bill provides that such Rules must be consistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha. Delhi and (ii) conduct any inquiry in relation to administrative decisions. Further, the Bill provides that all such rules made before its enactment will be void.

  4. Assent to Bills : The Act requires the LG to reserve certain Bills passed by the Legislative Assembly for the consideration of the President. These Bills are those: (i) which may diminish the powers of the High Court of Delhi, (ii) which the President may direct to be reserved, (iii) dealing with the salaries and allowances of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and members of the Assembly and the Ministers, or (iv) relating to official languages of the Assembly or the NCT of Delhi. The Bill requires the LG to also reserve those Bills for the President which incidentally cover any of the matters outside the purview of the powers of the Legislative Assembly.

  5. LG’s opinions for executive actions : The Act specifies that all executive action by the government, whether taken on the advice of the Ministers or otherwise, must be taken in the name of the LG. The Bill adds that on certain matters, as specified by the LG, his opinion must be obtained before taking any executive action on the decisions of the Minister/ Council of Ministers.

Public Reaction

This act has faced heavy opposition and criticism by both the opposition in the parliament and members of the Delhi Government. Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Adami Party chief Arvind Kejriwal on Monday accused Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government of trying to 'drastically curtail powers of elected government through a Bill in Lok Sabha'. Chief Minister Arwind Kejriwal has said that the BJP was trying to introduce the Bill because it was rejected by the people in elections. The bill/act has been called a “murder of constitutional democracy” by the Kejriwal Government. Deputy Chief Minister ManishSisodia had alleged that the Bill would “snatch the power of Delhi’s elected government and give it to the Centre-appointed L-G”. The act has also faced a lot of criticism and backlash from the general public on various social media sites such as twitter.

Conclusion

One thing that is clear is that this amendment effects the administration of Delhi in a significant manner. Whether this action was for better or for worse, only time shall tell. Looking at the fact that the act has faced and us facing a tremendous amount of criticism it could be expected that it would be challenged in the Supreme Court by the Kejriwal Government or members of the opposition. It shall be upto the Honorable

Supreme Court to determine whether this act passes the ‘Basic Structure Doctrine' set up by itself and whether it is valid or not. It would also be up to the Honorable Supreme Court to determine the extent and conditions of any that need to be put in place for the better functioning of the government in Delhi. This act does move towards centralization of power but right now it is too soon to tell what results can be yielded by it. What do you think about this new amendment and the effects it is gong to have ? Is it going to be beneficial or disastrous for the people of Delhi? Is it going to be able to solve the various issues that have been coming up in this city over the past 2 years?

- Shaurya Mahajan

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