Written by Manya Kochhar, a grade 12 student.
On the 24th of March, The Upper House of the Parliament passed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, ten days after it was introduced in the Lok Sabha.
Since then there has been a clash between the central and state government with the opposition causing an uproar by walking out on its approval in the Rajya Sabha.
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill makes it mandatory for the government to send files to or seek the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor before taking any administrative decisions. The Bill prescribes that the expression “Government” referred to in any law made by the Legislative Assembly shall mean the “Lieutenant Governor.”
In simpler terms, the bill seeks to replace the ‘Government’ in the act with the ‘Lieutenant Governor’ who is appointed by the Central Government.
This means that the nominated administrator, LG, will mean the Government of Delhi rather than the elected representatives. This is possible since Delhi has partial statehood i.e it is not a full-fledged state and is still a federal territory.
Under a special Constitutional amendment, Delhi was granted the power to have an elected legislature and government. However, The President still appoints an administrator- The LG- who becomes the Centre’s representative.
How’s that different from now?
Until now, education and the municipal operations of Delhi have been under the jurisdiction of the Legislative Assembly, while matters like security are managed by the Central Government upon the advice of the Lieutenant Governor.
The Centre’s rationale behind the amendment is that Delhi is still a ‘Union Territory and there is nothing wrong in using the expression L-G as interchangeable with the Government.’
The other amendment made in Section 44 of the act prescribes the State Government to seek the opinion of the LG before carrying out any general or special orders.
In the 2018 Supreme Court verdict, The LG was ruled to have no independent decision-making powers and was simply to act as an ‘advice and aid’ to the Delhi government. SC had clearly stated that the role of the LG is of an administrator in a limited sense rather than that of a governor. It further cautioned the LG to use his power only in ‘exceptional cases and not in a routine mechanical manner.’
However, now the NCT government will have to seek the opinion of the LG about all the administrative work before implementing its decisions. Therefore the new amendment contradicts the SC verdict which stated that it is up to the government to seek opinions.
This change in the law could stall any initiative of the State government if the administrator doesn’t agree with it. This could also lead to the general working of the government slowing down since each executive order by the government would first require the opinion of the LG before
its administration. If the LG is slow to prescribe an opinion on an order, the overall effectiveness and quickness of the ruling government will also diminish. Matters that require quick decision-making may end up being delayed.
Furthermore, The bill also stated that the legislative assembly shall not make any rule to enable itself or its committees to consider the matters of the day-to-day administration of the national capital or conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions. This would pose a problem to the current AAP government since it already has several committees instated to handle matters ranging from Covid to Environment. These would become null once the amendment is set to motion.
Another amendment states that the rules of the assembly shall not be inconsistent with the rules of Lok Sabha. This means that the proceedings now should occur in the same fashion as that in the Lok Sabha, taking away the privilege enjoyed by each independent legislature that has the right to conduct its proceedings as per the rules made by it irrespective of the rules of the Lok Sabha proceedings.
AAP has been opposing the bill since its introduction in the Lok Sabha. AAP members were also joined by 12 other parties who stood united against what many called an ‘unconstitutional bill’
Upon its approval in the Upper House, The CM in a series of tweets remarked the bill to be an ‘insult to the people of Delhi’. He further went on to say that the bill takes away powers from those who were voted by the people and gives powers to those who were defeated to run Delhi.
Furthermore, the opposition criticised the current government’s quick decision-making on a matter requiring ‘thorough deliberation’. Some members of the opposition claim the bill to undercut ‘federalism’ in the country.
The current AAP government was joined by the Trinamool and the Congress Members in a united movement to walk out.
N.D Gupta, an AAP Rajya Sabha MP, has stated that the party would move to the Supreme Court if the law was enacted.
Union Minister G. Kishan Reddy claims that the Bill does not propose any Constitutional amendment and only seeks to clarify certain ambiguities in the law. He further stated that it does not take any right from the current State Government nor enhance the rights of the LG.
Bhupendar Yadav, a senior BJP MP states that Delhi is still a Union Territory whose head declared by the constitution is the LG. He said that the restrictions on Delhi’s Legislative
Assembly is only being standardised by bringing them in line with the Lok Sabha rules as part of ‘good governance’. He stated that the LG needs to be informed of the decisions made by the Council of Ministers and the new bill seeks to do just that.