Turf-War 2.0: NCT Bill Passed, Why Kejriwal Govt is Against it
If passed, the Bill would force the Delhi government to pass all executive decisions through the L-G.
(This story was first published on 16 March 2021 and is being republished in light of the NCT Bill being passed in the Rajya Sabha on 24 March. Having cleared both the Houses of Parliament, the Bill is set to become law.)
Hours after Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy introduced in the Lok Sabha a bill that seeks to amend the balance of power between the elected Delhi government and its Lieutenant Governor, the quasi-state’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal lashed out at the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre for what he called was an "unconstitutional" and "undemocratic” move.
Taking to Twitter, Chief Minister Kejriwal accused the BJP of trying to limit the Delhi government’s power, by proposing to introduce amendments to The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991.
But why is the Bill being opposed by the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government and how does it carry the possibility of reviving the long-standing turf-war between the Lieutenant Governor and the elected government, which had been addressed by the Supreme Court in 2018?
WHAT DID THE SUPREME COURT SAY?
In July 2018, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, led by the then Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, said that the Lieutenant Governor’s approval wasn’t required for each and every decision of the government.
Excerpts from the judgment said that while the government did not need the permission of the LG only in areas that it was allowed to make laws on, the LG could refer a decision of the government to the President, in the event of a disagreement.
The judgment also said that the LG is bound by the "aid and advice" of the Council of Ministers, as long as he, under clause (4) of Article 239AA, doesn’t send the decision for review before the President – whose decision on the matter shall be final.
- The apex court also clarified that the words "any matter" as mentioned in clause (4) cannot mean "every matter" and that in only exceptional circumstances the LG should refer decisions of the elected government before the President.
- While the AAP’s earlier war-cry of full statehood for Delhi went into the backburner, the Supreme Court’s order made it clear that other than four areas in control of the LG – police, public order, land, and services – the LG was bound by the advice of the Council of Ministers in matters under the elected government and not vice-versa.
WHAT DOES THE 2021 AMENDMENT SAY?
GOVERNMENT MEANS L-G: The first amendment is in Section 21 of the 1991 Act, which says that the word "government" in any law passed by the Legislative Assembly would mean the “Lieutenant Governor".
PRESIDENT’S ASSENT: Under Section 24, this amendment proposes that the Lieutenant Governor shall not provide his assent or refer to the President a bill that is passed by the Legislative Assembly on a matter that is outside its purview.
RULES OF PROCEDURE: Under Section 33, the amendment seeks to add that rules made by the Legislative Assembly for regulating its own procedure and conduct of business shall have to be in sync with those in the “House of the People” or the Lok Sabha.
The amendment also proposes that the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor has to be taken before the implementation of any executive decision taken by the Council of Ministers.
Moreover, the amendment says that the Legislative Assembly shall not make any rule to allow itself or its committees to “consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the Capital or conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions.”
WHAT IS THE BONE OF CONTENTION?
Following the 2018 Supreme Court judgment, the AAP government was not required to send files to the L-G before implementing executive decisions and was only mandated to keep the L-G aware of all administrative matters.
- The amendment, if passed, will force the Delhi government to take the advice of the L-G before implementing any Cabinet decision on matters that are within its jurisdiction.
- The Delhi government, which has set-up several committees, some probing matters like Delhi riots, environment, data and privacy, will not be able to take up any such work if the proposed amendments are cleared.
Reacting to the proposed Amendment, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had said: “This Bill goes against what the Supreme Court Constitution Bench order had stated. If this is what the Centre wants to do, what is the point of holding elections and there being an elected government in the state? Why does the Centre pretend to be democratic?”
Speaking on similar lines, Chief Minister Kejriwal had asked that “what will elected government do” if all executive decisions have to be approved by the Lieutenant Governor, who, if the amendments are cleared, shall denote the government.
(With inputs from The Indian Express.)
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