From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Ordinance powers of Central government
Mains level : Battle for control in Delhi between the elected government and the Central government
- In recent times, we have witnessed a significant development in the power struggle between the Delhi government and the Central government. The Supreme Court’s unanimous recognition of the Delhi government’s control over administrative services marked an emancipation of the people’s will. However, the subsequent promulgation of an ordinance by the Central government to nullify the court’s decision has subverted the Delhi government’s power and handed it back to Central government appointees.
The Delhi government’s struggle for control
- Stripping of Control: In 2015, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs took away the elected Delhi government’s control over administrative services and handed it to the Lieutenant Governor (LG), an appointee of the Union government. This decision severely impeded the functioning of the Delhi government.
- Day-to-Day Problems: The transfer of control over services resulted in day-to-day problems in the functioning of important departments. Secretaries were frequently changed, leading to a lack of continuity, vision, and efficiency in governance.
- Frequent Transfers of Officials: The Delhi government witnessed frequent transfers of officials, hindering their ability to familiarize themselves with the departments they were working in. This constant reshuffling minimized the potential for effective governance and hindered the government’s relief efforts during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Lack of Functional Control: As the elected government had no functional control over services, it faced challenges in punishing errant officers and addressing issues such as vacancies, vigilance enquiries, and corruption cases. The government also witnessed a high number of vacancies in crucial positions due to mismanagement by the Lieutenant Governor.
- Conflicting Directives: Officials faced a dilemma in following directives as they felt duty-bound to honor the will of the elected government expressed by the people, while also staying under the functional control of the LG. This created confusion and hindered effective decision-making.
- Lack of Answerability: The Services Department, under the control of the LG, refused to answer questions raised by Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in the Vidhan Sabha. This limited transparency and accountability, preventing MLAs from obtaining crucial information related to vacancies, corruption cases, and other issues.
- Penalization of Officials: Honest and efficient officials were often penalized for their merits and subjected to punishment postings. This created an environment of uncertainty and discouraged officials from performing their duties effectively.
The Supreme Court’s intervention in the Delhi government’s struggle for control
- Recognition of Delhi Government’s Control: The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, recognized the control of the Delhi government over administrative services. A five-judge Bench unanimously upheld the government’s authority, ensuring that decisions on appointments and transfers would be made by the elected government.
- Restoration of Chain of Accountability: The Court’s judgment restored the chain of accountability involving the people, the legislature, the government, and the bureaucracy. It reinforced the principle that elected governments have the power to govern and make decisions regarding the bureaucracy.
- Empowerment of the Elected Government: The Supreme Court’s decision empowered the elected Delhi government to make appointments and transfers based on performance and merit. It allowed the government to take action against errant officials and implement its policies effectively.
- Efficient and Compassionate Bureaucracy: The Court’s ruling paved the way for an efficient, honest, responsive, accountable, and compassionate bureaucracy. It provided clarity on the roles and responsibilities of officials, enabling them to work towards the development of Delhi and the welfare of its people.
- Clarification on Services Department: The Court’s intervention brought clarity regarding the Services Department, which had previously refused to answer questions raised by MLAs in the Vidhan Sabha. The judgment ensured that the elected government had functional control over the department, enabling transparency and answerability.
- Encouragement for Overhauling the Bureaucracy: The Delhi government, empowered by the Court’s decision, planned to overhaul the bureaucracy. It sought to establish a skilled administration model, leveraging the success of its health and education models.
The significance of the Supreme Court judgment
- Upholding Democratic Principles: The Supreme Court judgment recognizing the control of the Delhi government over administrative services upholds democratic principles. It affirms the importance of elected governments in decision-making and governance, ensuring that the will of the people expressed through their votes is respected.
- Restoration of Accountability: The judgment restores the chain of accountability involving the people, the legislature, the government, and the bureaucracy. It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the elected government and the bureaucracy, fostering transparency and answerability.
- Empowering Elected Government: By recognizing the control of the elected Delhi government, the Court empowers the government to make appointments and transfers based on performance. It enables the government to take action against errant officials and implement its policies effectively, leading to improved governance.
- Strengthening Good Governance: The judgment paves the way for an efficient, honest, and responsive bureaucracy. It ensures that officials work towards the development of Delhi and the welfare of its people. It promotes vision, consistency, and efficiency in governance, fostering good governance practices
Impact of the ordinance issued by the Central government on the power dynamics in Delhi
- Shift of Control: The ordinance has effectively shifted control over services in Delhi back to the Lieutenant Governor (LG), appointed by the Central government. This overturns the Supreme Court’s decision recognizing the control of the elected Delhi government over administrative services. It diminishes the authority of the elected government and centralizes power in the hands of the LG.
- Undermining Democratic Process: The ordinance undermines the democratic process by disregarding the elected government’s role in matters of services. It reduces the value of the citizen’s vote and weakens the accountability of officers to the elected representatives. This move goes against the principles of cooperative federalism and disempowers opposition-run governments.
- Disruption of Policy Implementation: The ordinance hampers the implementation of policies and initiatives by the elected government. It allows the LG to exercise sole discretion in matters of services, potentially leading to conflicting views and hindrances in executing the government’s policies. This can result in delays, inefficiencies, and a lack of coordination in governance.
- Disempowerment of Elected Government: The ordinance disempowers the elected Delhi government by granting the LG significant decision-making powers. It limits the government’s ability to appoint officers who align with its policies and goals, undermining the concept of an accountable and responsive administration.
- Potential for Discord and Inefficiency: The ordinance introduces the possibility of discord between the LG and the elected government, as the LG can veto the Chief Minister’s views. This can create conflicts and hinder effective decision-making and cooperation between the two entities. The lack of coordination and cooperation can lead to bureaucratic delays, inefficiencies, and an inability to address the needs of the people.
- Centralization of Power: The ordinance reflects a trend of centralizing power in the hands of the Central government and the LG. It institutionalizes the use of the Governor/LG position to undermine democratically elected non-BJP governments and weaken their authority. This concentration of power challenges the principles of federalism and decentralization.
Facts for prelims
|The constitutional provisions related to the ordinance powers
The way forward
- Respect for Judicial Decisions: It is crucial for all stakeholders to respect and abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court. Upholding the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary is essential for a functioning democracy. Any further legal challenges should be pursued through proper legal channels.
- Dialogue and Collaboration: It is important for the Central government and the elected Delhi government to engage in constructive dialogue and collaboration. Both entities should work towards finding common ground and resolving their differences through discussions and negotiations. This will help establish a cooperative and inclusive approach to governance.
- Clarity on Roles and Responsibilities: There should be a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities between the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor. This will help avoid conflicts and ensure effective coordination in decision-making and policy implementation. Establishing transparent guidelines for the exercise of power and cooperation is essential.
- Strengthening Cooperative Federalism: Both the Central government and state governments, including the government of Delhi, should uphold the principles of cooperative federalism. This involves respecting the autonomy and authority of elected state governments and promoting meaningful collaboration for the benefit of the people.
- Effective Governance Mechanisms: Efforts should be made to establish effective governance mechanisms that promote transparency, accountability, and efficiency. This includes streamlining administrative processes, ensuring timely appointments and transfers, and implementing performance-based evaluation systems for officials.
- Public Participation and Engagement: Engaging the public in decision-making processes and policy formulation can foster a sense of ownership and enhance the quality of governance. Platforms for public participation, such as citizen feedback mechanisms and public consultations, should be established to ensure the voices of the people are heard.
- Strengthening Institutions: The strengthening of democratic institutions, including the judiciary and administrative bodies, is crucial. Upholding their independence, ensuring merit-based appointments, and promoting professionalism and accountability within these institutions will contribute to effective governance.
- Focus on Development and Welfare: Irrespective of the power dynamics, the primary focus should be on the development and welfare of the people of Delhi. Efforts should be made to deliver essential services, address pressing issues, and implement policies that cater to the needs and aspirations of the citizens.
- The battle for control in Delhi between the elected government and the Central government has witnessed both the emancipation and subversion of the people’s will. It is crucial for all parties involved to prioritize the well-being of the citizens and work together to establish a cooperative and inclusive governance framework. By doing so, Delhi can overcome the challenges posed by the power struggle and strive towards effective governance that caters to the needs and aspirations of its people.
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Very good explanation