From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 239AA
Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with the Bill to amend Delhi Government-LG relations
The article highlights the issues with the amendment bill introduced by the Centre to clarify the term ‘Government’.
Why Delhi was made Union Territory: Historical background
- When the Constitution came into force, there were four kinds of States, called Parts A,B, C and D States.
- The last two were administered by centrally appointed Chief Commissioners and Lieutenant Governors, with no locally elected Assemblies to aid and advise them.
- First, it was felt that if Delhi became a part of any constituent State of the Union, that State would sooner or later acquire a predominant position in relation to other States.
- Second, the need for keeping the National Capital under the control of the Union Government was deemed to be vital in the national interest.
- Third, it was felt that if Delhi became a full State, the administration of the National Capital would be divided into rigid compartments of the State field and Union field.
- Conflicts would likely arise in vital matters, particularly if the two governments were run by different political parties.
- Hence, Delhi was initially made a Part C State.
- In 1951, a Legislative Assembly was created with an elected Chief Minister.
- In 1956, when the Constitution of India was amended to implement the provisions of the States Reorganisation Act, only two categories, namely, States and Union Territories remained in the Indian Union.
- Delhi then became a Union Territory to be administered by an Administrator appointed by the President.
- Ten years later, the Delhi Administration Act, 1966 provided for a limited representative Government in Delhi through a Metropolitan Council comprising 56 elected Members and five nominated Members.
Balakrishnan Committee report
- In 1989, the Balakrishnan Committee recommended that Delhi should continue to be a Union Territory but that there must be a Legislative Assembly and Council of Ministers responsible to the said Assembly with appropriate powers.
- Based on this report, the Constitution (69th) Amendment Act and the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCT) Act, 1991 were passed.
- They roughly restored the kind of governance system that was offered to Delhi in 1952: a Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly, a Council of Ministers and an elected Chief Minister.
- This limited reincarnation has continued to hold the field to date, despite several efforts to progress to full or near-statehood.
LG-Delhi Government conflict
- A Bench in 2018 ruled over the conflict and said that Parliament envisaged a representative form of Government for the NCT of Delhi.
- The Bench also said that the Constitution has mandated a federal balance wherein independence of a certain required degree is assured to the State Governments.
- The remaining issues of governance, especially in the matter of control over Delhi government servants, was remitted to two judges of the Court for further adjudication.
- In 2019, there was a difference of opinion recorded in separate judgments by the two judges and the matter awaits hearing before a larger Bench.
Issues with the Amendment Bill
- The central government recently introduced a Bill, namely, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks, inter alia, to clarify the expression ‘Government’ in 2018 Supreme Court judgement.
- The Bill effectively reduces the elected government to a mere vestigial organ and elevates the centrally appointed LG, to the position of a Viceroy with plenipotentiary powers.
- It further provides that before taking any executive action to exercise powers of Government, the opinion of Lieutenant Governor shall be obtained on all such matters as may be specified by Lieutenant Governor.
- The population of Delhi which counts among the highest in the world, will have an unrepresentative administration.
- It is quite likely that the amendment act will end up being challenged in the constitutional courts.
- The Supreme Court has already cautioned — “Interpretation cannot ignore the conscience of the Constitution.“
Consider the question “Examine the issues with Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021. Do you think that the Bill will avoid the conflict between the LG and the Delhi government?”
The Amendment Bill should be reconsidered given its impact on the administration of the Delhi government.