Delhi NCT Act amendment gives more powers to LG, Kejriwal irked

Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the Government of NCT of Delhi Act, giving more powers to the lieutenant-governor. Kejriwal government calls it ‘a murder of constitutional democracy’

IB officer, Ankit Sharma, compensation, Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi riots, murder, AAP councillor, Tahir Hussain
Arvind Kejriwal wants schoolchildren to learn deshbhakti | File Photo

Last week the Union Cabinet approved certain amendments to the Government of NCT of Delhi Act, giving more powers to the lieutenant-governor. This prompted the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government to call it “a murder of constitutional democracy”.

The bill will “snatch power of Delhi’s elected government and give it to the Centre-appointed lieutenant-governor”, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said. “The BJP wants to govern Delhi through backdoor as people chose not to elect them in three consecutive elections,” he said.

“The Bill proposes to amend the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, in the context of judgment dated 14.02.2019 of Hon’ble Supreme Court (Division bench) in Civil Appeal No 2357 of 2017 and other connected matters,” according to the list of bills, accessed by the website ThePrint, to be proposed in the Parliament.

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According to the judgment, the Delhi government’s Anti-Corruption Bureau cannot investigate central government employees, and the Centre has power to appoint an enquiry commission.

Currently the Ministry of Home Affairs is in charge of law and order and police in Delhi, while the state government has administrative powers.

About the Bill

The Centre and the AAP government have argued over the issue of distribution of powers in Delhi for years. This is because the Centre has retained rights over certain matters, such as public order and police.

The legislation is expected to amend a 1991 Act with regard to the powers and functions of the state government and the L-G.

It will give more power to the L-G’s office.

The proposed amendments will add a category of bills that fall outside the ambit of the Delhi legislative assembly, which the L-G must reserve for consideration of the president. This means the Constitution confers powers on the L-G to refer a matter to the president for a decision where his views are different from those of the Delhi government. In cases where the president’s decision is pending, the L-G may take immediate decision if he is of the opinion that the matter is urgent.

However, this constitutional provision became inoperative or ineffective after the SC’s observation in July 2018 that the state government need not obtain the L-G’s concurrence on all day-to-day governance related matters, but only need to inform him.

The proposed amendments also specify that the government needs to send legislative proposals to the L-G at least 14 days in advance to seek his opinion and avoid any delays.

Years-long Feud

The feud between the Centre and the AAP government reached the Supreme Court in 2017. In July 2018, the court defined the role of the L-G in Delhi, and said he cannot “interfere in every decision of the Delhi government”.

The court also reiterated that the status of the L-G was different from that of governors. “There is no room for absolutism and no room for anarchy,” the bench said.

“The lieutenant-governor must work harmoniously with the elected government. The L-G is the administrative head but can’t act as an obstructionist,” it said.

The issue of services, however, divided the bench and the matter was referred to a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court. The hearing is yet to conclude.

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