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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 is 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

What exactly is the bone of contention?

The recent disputes over governance in Delhi takes us back to question the fundamental philosophy of its formation and evolution over time.

Even though Delhi has an elected Legislature having powers over all, save a few State List subjects, the ultimate authority still remains with the GOI, which could override the Delhi Government on any subject.


Does this issue have any historical precedence? Or it’s just a Kejri-Modi battle to the glory?

This is not a new question — the Constituent Assembly witnessed a contested discussion, with Deshbandhu Gupta supporting responsible government, and BR Ambedkar favouring greater control by the GOI owing to Delhi’s status as the national capital.


A quick recap to the present day




What are the possible options to resolve this dispute?

There are three principles that must form the bedrock of formulating a new compact between the Delhi Government and GOI:

  1. Recommendations of Sitaramayya Committee set up by the Constituent Assembly to study this subject, Delhi must have a responsible government.
  2. The principle of subsidiarity must be observed for Delhi as it is observed for all other states. Meaning? 
    • This implies that the municipal corporations and other local bodies in Delhi, must be answerable first and foremost to the Delhi Government and not the GOI.
  3. The overriding power of the GOI which is currently all-pervasive must be re-looked into.

With inputs from the Vidhi Centre For Legal Policy


Any doubts?

  1. Profile photo of devnandan kumar devnandan kumar

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

  2. Profile photo of kondepudi sai naveen 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. Profile photo of Arnav Sarkar 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. Profile photo of Root Root

    Updated with Explainers & Questions

    1. Profile photo of shwetha k 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.

Constitution Bench to hear Delhi-Centre spat

  1. News: A two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench a series of appeals filed by the Delhi government
  2. Appeals: for laying 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. A question that arises now is whether the appeals would have to be heard by an eleven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court
  4. This is because a nine-judge Bench of the court had, in 1996, in the NDMC versus State of Punjab case, recognised Delhi as a Union Territory for taxation purposes
  5. However, in recent arguments before the two-judge Bench, the Delhi government submitted that the petitions did not seek full Statehood for Delhi, but were asking for more freedom for an elected government to administer and govern the National Capital


The issue now is a constitutional one and needs to be followed as it develops. It might be a question in mains as to should Delhi be given full statehood or should the powers of Delhi govt be increased for autonomous functioning etc.

When HC made it clear who really heads Delhi

  1. Event: Najeeb Jung’s resignation from the post of Lieutenant-Governor
  2. It comes just four months after a Delhi HC verdict ruled that the L-G is the administrative head of the city, which continues to be a Union Territory
  3. The judgement stated that the L-G’s approval is required in relation to all “services”
  4. Also, “it is mandatory under the constitutional scheme to communicate the decision of the Council of Ministers to the L-G and an order thereon can be issued only where the L-G does not take a different view”
  5. It pointed out that the powers of the Governor of a Union Territory are not the same as the L-G of Delhi
  6. In view of this fundamental difference in the powers conferred upon a Governor of State and the L-G of NCT of Delhi, it is not possible to hold that the L-G is bound to act only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers
  7. With this verdict, all decisions taken by the Chief Minister and his Cabinet were to be sent to the L-G for approval
  8. As a result this verdict, many decisions of the AAP govt were declared illegal


This judgment was important since it involved constitutional issues. In fact a question on this came in this years mains also. Hence, any development, even if it is state specific, is important if it involves national or constitutional issues.

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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