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Should Delhi be given statehood?

  • Why in news?
  • Background
  • What is the present status of Delhi?
  • Arguments favoring statehood in Delhi
  • Why not to give statehood?
  • The way ahead

Why in news?

Recently Supreme Court has sought more clarity on the scope and boundaries of the relationship between the Delhi government and the Centre as at times, both the Centre and Delhi government contest each other’s right to administer and govern the National Capital and demands have been raised to give statehood to Delhi.


The elected governments have time and again felt crippled in decision-making as the assembly does not have powers like other state assemblies. All political parties that have been in power in Delhi have lamented this and raised the demand for full statehood for the national capital.

What is the present status of Delhi?

  • Presently, Delhi enjoys the character of a special Union Territory that has some unique institutions like an elected Legislative Assembly and a High Court.
  • In 1991, the Parliament, through the 69th amendment, introduced Article 239AA (Special Provisions with respect to Delhi) and conferred the right upon the people of the NCT of Delhi to elect their own legislature and government to make laws under certain entries of the state list of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution and execute these laws respectively.
  • This amendment, however, did not confer full statehood upon Delhi and powers with respect to public order, land and police remained with the Union government.

Argument favoring statehood to Delhi

  • Two power centres create confusion

In the current system, power is divided between the chief minister and the Central government through the LG. This dual control creates an inherent tension between the two power centres.

  • Union government exercises immense authority

Though Delhi Assembly is given the powers to govern and make laws on all but three subjects – public order, police and land but the Union government has been violating this constitutional provision and has been exercising authority on several subjects.

  • Law & order should be the state government’s responsibility

Delhi Police reports to the Union Home ministry and this ties their hands in ensuring maintenance of law and order in the capital. To avoid the tussle, the Centre can create and deploy a central police force for guarding its buildings and for diplomatic duties. For law and order duties, Delhi’s elected government must be in full command.

  • Delhi’s land cannot be under Centre’s control

The Delhi government cannot decide on its own the use that the city’s land should be put to. This leads to conflict at times.

  • Delhi does not have its own officers

Each state of India has its own Public Service Commission that recruits bureaucrats to run the state government’s administrative machinery. Delhi, being a Union territory, does not have a cadre of officers of its own and is part of a common cadre shared with other UTs.

  • It is argued that if Delhi had its own cadre, like all states have, the impasse between the offices of the CM and the LG would not have arisen.
  • National capitals all over the world have sufficient powers
  • Experts say even if some national capitals like Washington DC, London and Paris are not states, all of them have a governance structure that gives the local government legislative, financial and administrative powers. Delhi has none of these.
  • As Delhi expands, clarity over jurisdiction of the local government will become increasingly imperative.
  • Some experts have argued that the assembly should be dissolved and the Centre be given full charge of the national capital. However, the abolition of an assembly once created will mean taking away the democratic rights of the people.

Why not to give the statehood?

  • Delhi is different than other UTs because as the nation’s capital, it must reflect the best that the country offers. And that is only possible if land-use, zoning plans and building regulations are managed in consonance with the standards expected of a capital city. Parallels cannot be drawn with state capitals like Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai (although that is constantly being done).
  • Statehood would bring land allocation under the city government, whose concern for the country’s capital would yield to satiating local demands.
  • In the national capital, the protection of dignitaries and the maintenance of public order are the highest priorities. The upkeep of maximum standards of security is how the safety of the capital is judged. An attack on a Union minister or diplomat would guarantee an ‘unsafe’ tag not just for Delhi but the country. So, police cannot be kept solely in the hands of state government.
  • An important point against the grant of statehood to the Delhi is the inability of its city government to bear the cost of police salaries and the pension liabilities of all city government employees, which are today borne entirely by the Centre.
  • It would weaken the case for delegation of authority under various statutes which is feasible and a necessity.

What’s the way ahead

  • Full statehood will definitely bring better opportunities for the residents of Delhi and financial increments for the government’s budget but not without its own share of responsibilities like provision of top security infrastructure for law & order and internal security
  • From the point of view of the citizens of Delhi, what matters is that systems are transparent and day-to-day work is attended to. This does not need statehood—only good governance


Any doubts?

  1. devnandan kumar

    explained in a very lucid manner..impressed..loved the way it was written..?

  2. kondepudi sai naveen

    how can a statehood be given to a place where all central govt institutions are present like the parliament ,supreme court and others…the govt assuming power there shall control the police
    ( if given the statehood) and this may result in dirty politics refusing security to MPs of different parties who are not their allies..

  3. Arnav Sarkar

    giving delhi full statehood will actually be in line with whole process of transfer of power and responsibility, since finance commission has given a greater share of taxes to the states, giving delhi full statehood would actually allow for faster and more efficient capacity building,as for the argument of delhi being the centre of best practices and a role model for the rest of the nation , it would continue to do so even if its an independent state because it has been a centre of intellectual thinking and will continue to do so regardless of who controls the entire system,delhi is special in a way that the parochial sentiments which are in play in other states are less dominant since it being a cultural melting pot,and granting full statehood will be show immense faith in the better judgement of local people to transcend beyond local issues and set the example for the rest of the nation as is expected out of our capital

  4. Root

    Updated with Explainers & Questions

    1. shwetha k

      as a national capital Delhi must have special status. complete statehood not required, also the situations, structure and behavior of Indian administration is not comparable with USA & China.

[op-ed snap] Responsibility without power


Prelims level: Article 239AA
Mains level: 2016 Question: Discuss the essentials of the 69th Constitutional Amendment Act and anomalies, if any that have led to recent reported conflicts between the elected representatives and the institution of the Lieutenant Governor in the administration of Delhi. Do you think that this will give rise to a new trend in the functioning of the Indian federal politics?


  1. The problem of jurisdictional conflicts between Delhi’s elected government and the lieutenant governor (LG) is attributable to Article 239 AA of the Indian Constitution.
  2. Incorporated in the Constitution in 1992, it creates a “special” constitutional set up for Delhi.
  3.  The Delhi High Court judgment: LG is the only decision-making authority in the National Capital Territory.
  4. Presently, the Supreme Court is looking into the powers of the elected government and those of the LG.
Main Issues:
  1. Whether the elected government is the final authority in respect of matters assigned to it by the Constitution?
  2. Whether the LG has primacy when a difference of opinion arises between him and his council of ministers on matters of governance?
Elected Government as final authority
  1. As per Article 239 AA (3) (a), the Delhi assembly can legislate on all those matters listed in the State List and Concurrent List as are applicable to union territories, excluding public order, police and land. These three items are reserved for the LG.
  2. As per Article 239 AA and 239 AB (a):  the council of ministers is responsible for Delhi’s administration and if it fails in its functions, it will be removed by the president.
  3. But the council of ministers cannot be removed for the breakdown of the constitutional machinery unless they are vested with the power to take final decisions on matters of administration.
  4. Thus, the vesting of all powers in the LG in respect of matters which come within the jurisdiction of the assembly is not in conformity with the scheme of Article 239 AA.
Primacy case of difference of opinion
  1. The proviso to Clause (4) of Article 239 AA: A LG, could disagree with many decisions of elected government and refer them to the president, which means the central government.
  2. This virtually nullifies the executive power vested in the council of ministers
  3. But the purpose of the constitutional amendment was to provide a democratic government for Delhi and not to enhance the powers of the LG.
  4. Thus, it cannot be the intention of the lawmakers to take away the powers vested in the elected government and establish the primacy of the LG.
Like limiting the scope of “Whip’(Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillu). it may be a fit case for the Supreme Court to read down the proviso to mean that the LG would refer to the president only matters concerning conflict of opinion on items reserved for the LG and those assigned to the assembly.

SC to lay down law on LG’s power

  1. Context: Tussle over Delhi NCT administration between Delhi Govt and Centre
  2. SC: Would lay down the law on whether the Lieutenant Governor (LG) can unilaterally administer the National Capital without being bound by the aid and advice of the elected government
  3. However, it refused to stay the Delhi HC judgment (explained below)
  4. Background: SC issued notice to the Union on a batch of seven petitions filed by the Delhi government challenging the Delhi High Court’s August 4 judgment
  5. The HC had upheld the LG’s power not only over the police, land and public order but also in services
  6. The judgment had effectively shrunk the Kejriwal Cabinet’s girth

Background to SC judgement on UTs- a recent Delhi HC judgement

  1. Recently, a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court cleared the air that Delhi is a Union Territory with the Lieutenant Governor as its administrator, and not a state
  2. HC had trimmed the Kejriwal Cabinet’s girth by quashing several notifications issued by it without consulting Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung
  3. Federal dispute? The court did all this by dismissing the Delhi government’s argument that the AAP-Centre tussle was a ‘classic’ federal dispute
  4. It observed that not every dispute between the Centre and a State government could be classified as a ‘federal dispute’
  5. Constitutional jurisdiction of HC: HC relegated the wrangle to the status of a mere political tug-of-war on ‘services’, matters over which the High Court has full jurisdiction to adjudicate under Article 226 of the Constitution

Union Territories have their identity, says SC

  1. News: The Supreme Court has observed that Union Territories, though Centrally administered, enjoy an independent identity
  2. SC: The administration of UTs is by the Central government but that does not mean the Union Territories become merged with the Central government
  3. Context: SC was interpreting Section 119 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, which exempts properties of the Union from taxation
  4. Whose property? The judgment expressed doubts as to whether properties of a Union Territory can be treated as the assets of the Centre
  5. Background: The judgement comes at a time when the Arvind Kejriwal government has sought clarity over the ratio of power between his Cabinet and the Centre in administering the national capital

L-G is not bound to act as per advise of Delhi Cabinet

  1. The court in its judgement said that Article 239 continues to remain applicable that makes Delhi a Union territory
  2. Article 239: Every Union territory shall be administered by the President acting, to such extent as he thinks fit, through an administrator to be appointed by him
  3. Hence, Delhi continues to remain under the administrative control of the Lt Governor

Delhi vs Centre

  1. News: Supreme Court judge sought more clarity on the scope and boundaries of the relationship between the Delhi government and the Centre
  2. Background: Delhi government’s view is that is unable to function independently as a “full State” and the Centre’s interference has led to a virtual paralysis
  3. The dispute is centred on the powers of Delhi government under Article 239A of the Constitution
  4. Both the Centre and Delhi government contest each other’s right to administer and govern the National Capital

Draft Bill on Delhi statehood released

  1. Context: In struggle for full statehood, AAP government released a draft bill seeking full statehood for the Capital
  2. State of Delhi Bill, 2016: Extension of jurisdiction of the elected govt of the Capital over police, land, municipal corporations and bureaucracy
  3. Areas demarcated under the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the Delhi Cantonment Board would, however, remain beyond the legislative and administrative control of the proposed Delhi State
  4. Replacement of the term ‘Lieutenant Governor’ with ‘Governor’ in a significant shift in terms of administrative nomenclature
  5. The Governor of State of Delhi would ‘act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers as provided in Article 163 of the Constitution’

In a rare gesture, CM and LG settle DCW issue amicably

  1. LG had earlier dismissed the appointment of chief of Delhi Commission for Women, on the pretext that his approval was mandatory and asserting that the Govt. in Delhi meant LG.
  2. This was followed by Delhi Govt. sending the file to LG which the latter approved.
  3. Many hearings are conducted before the Commission reaches a conclusion for the affected women and exercises the powers of a Civil Court to ensure compliance of its summons for witnesses and evidence.

[op-ed snap] Constitutional opinion over the Delhi turf war

The relevant laws are Article 239AA of the Constitution, the Govt of NCT of Delhi Act, 1991 (GNCT Act), the rules formulated under this Act (Transaction of Business Rules), and the relevant judicial pronouncements.



  1. Although the separation of power between Delhi CM and LG is not very clearly demarcated but it can be reasonably suggested that the LG’s discretionary powers do not extend to the appointment of the Chief Secretary without the “aid and advice” of the CM.
  2. The SC in the P. Royappa(1974) case had ruled that Chief Secretary is the lynchpin in smooth administration and it is necessary that there is good rapport between CS and CM. This ruling gives CM an upper hand in appointment of the CS.
  3. Section 41 of GNCT Act deals with the discretionary powers of the LG and there is no such law granting discretion to the LG for making such appointments currently.

LG cancels all govt’s appointments and CM banks on the public support


  1. LG has deemed all appointments made by the govt in last four days as invalid since they did not have his approval.
  2. He also contested AAP government’s instructions to the officials to not route files through his office, saying he has been vested with power to decide on major policy issues.
  3. Constitutional provisions and norms laid down in Government of NCT of Delhi Act and Transaction of Business rules of the Delhi Government give LG wider powers over the policy issues as compared to other states.

LG meets President while CM appoints new Principal Secretary

  1. Continuing the Delhi Mahabharat, CM appointed a new Principal Secretary (General Administration) bypassing Lt Governor.
  2. The above order was passed by the Principal Secretary (Services) though his appointment to the post was declared “void” by the LG.
  3. A number of bureaucrats have been caught in the cross-fire and CM has directed all it officials to apprise the Govt. of any oral or written order from the LG.
  4. Both, LG and CM are expected to meet the President in a hope of ending the deadlock.

[op-ed snap] Struggle for Supremacy in Delhi

LG-CM war intensifies

  1. Delhi CM accused LG of acting unconstitutionally and also removed the Principal Secretary to the Services Department, who had issued the orders to appoint Ms. Gamlin Acting Chief Secretary, on LG’s orders.
  2. LG not only revoked and termed the order ab initio void, he also defended his decisions saying his Secretariat had not taken a single decision which was in violation of the provisions of the Constitution.

Fresh face-off between Delhi CM and Lieutenant Governor


  1. Delhi CM questioned the appointment of an acting Chief Secretary by the LG stating that LG had bypassed the elected Government and the Constitutional provisions.
  2. However, LG defended the action by saying that he approved the name of Ms. Shakuntala Gamlin in view of her seniority.
  3. This controversy has brought in public the name of a bureaucrat who is supposed to work anonymously.
  4. The issue promises to be a yet another point of friction in not-so-friendly relations between Delhi CM and LG.

Questions (attempt in the comments section)


Do you think the demand for full statehood to Delhi is logical? Critically comment considering the merits and demerits of granting complete statehood to Delhi.


India’s National Capital Territory enjoys special status compared to other metropolitan cities in India. Examine how other federal governments such as USA and Australia, and unitary governments such as China have devolved powers to their Capital Territories compared to India’s National Capital Territory and comment if Delhi should be given full statehood.

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