From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Special Status for New Delhi
Mains level : Delhi- LG issue
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) moved the NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to the Lok Sabha where it proposed that “government” in Delhi means the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.
What is the news?
- The Bill gives discretionary powers to the L-G of Delhi even in matters where the Legislative Assembly of Delhi is empowered to make laws.
- The Delhi state govt has criticized the bill saying that it seeks to drastically curtail powers of the elected government”, which is “against” the Supreme Court judgment of 2018.
NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021
- Among the major proposed amendments, one makes it explicitly clear that the term “government” in any law made by the Legislative Assembly shall mean the L-G.
- This, essentially, gives effect to the former L-G 2015 assertion that “Government means the Lieutenant Governor of the NCT of Delhi appointed by the President under Article 239 and designated as such under Article 239 AA of the Constitution”.
- The Bill adds that the L-G’s opinion shall be obtained before the government takes any executive action based on decisions taken by the Cabinet or any individual minister.
What purpose does the 1991 Act serve?
- Delhi’s current status as a UT with a Legislative Assembly is an outcome of the 69th Amendment Act through which Articles 239AA and 239BB were introduced in the Constitution.
- The Act was passed simultaneously to supplement the constitutional provisions relating to the Assembly and the Council of Ministers in the national capital.
- For all practical purposes, it outlined the powers of the Assembly, the discretionary powers enjoyed by the L-G, and the duties of the CM with respect to the need to furnish information to the L-G.
What is the 2018 Supreme Court Verdict?
- In its 2018 verdict, the five-judge Bench had held that the LG’s concurrence is not required on issues other than police, public order and land.
- It had added that decisions of the Council of Ministers will, however, have to be communicated to the LG.
- The L-G was bound by the aid and advice if the council of ministers, it had said.
- The Bench of then CJI status of the LG of Delhi is not that of a Governor of a State, rather he remains an Administrator, in a limited sense, working with the designation of Lieutenant Governor”.
- It had also pointed out that the elected government must keep in mind that Delhi is not a state.
Consider the question “What are the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court in the Government of NCT of Delhi vs. Union of India (2018) to avoid the conflict between Lt. Governor and the Delhi Government? Also examine the scope of referring any matter to the consideration of the President by the Lt. Governor.”
What will change if the amendments are cleared by Parliament?
- Encouraged by the Supreme Court verdict, the elected government had stopped sending files on executive matters to the L-G before the implementation of any decision.
- It has been keeping the L-G abreast of all administrative developments, but not necessarily before implementing or executing any decision.
- But the amendment, if cleared, will force the elected government to take the L-G’s advice before taking any action on any cabinet decision.
- The Bill seeks to bar the Assembly or its committees from making rules to take up matters concerning day-to-day administration, or to conduct inquiries in relation to administrative decisions.
Does the L-G enjoy no discretionary power under the current arrangement?
- The L-G does have the power to refer any matter, over which there is a disagreement with the elected government, to the President under Article 239AA (4).
- The Delhi Law Secretary had in 2019 written in an internal memo that the elected government cannot use the SC verdict to keep the L-G in the dark about its decisions.
- But the SC had also categorically pointed out that the L-G should not act in a mechanical manner without due application of mind so as to refer every decision of the CM to the President.
What are the state government’s fears?
- From 2015 to 2018, the government was engaged in a constant battle with the Centre over policy decisions and the powers of the L-G with the elected government.
- The SC judgment gave the Delhi govt a freer hand in terms of policy decisions.
- The government insiders have maintained that it was because of the judgment that the government was able to clear policy decisions like giving free power to those using under 200 units, free bus rides for women.
- The amendments will have far-reaching implications — beyond just the tussle between any political parties.
Back2Basics: Special Status for New Delhi
- Article 239AA of the Constitution of India granted Special Status to Delhi among Union Territories (UTs) in the year 1991 through the 69th constitutional amendment.
- It provided a Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers responsible to such Assembly with appropriate powers.
- That’s when Delhi was named as the National Capital Region (NCT) of Delhi.
- As per this article – Public Order, Police & Land in NCT of Delhi fall within the domain and control of Central Government which shall have the power to make laws on these matters.
- For remaining matters of State List or Concurrent List, in so far as any such matter is applicable to UTs, the Legislative Assembly shall have the power to make laws for NCT of Delhi.