How is Delhi governed?
- Delhi’s current status as a Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly is an outcome of the 69th Amendment Act through which Articles 239AA and 239BB were introduced in the Constitution.
- The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) 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, the GNCTD Act outlines the powers of the Assembly, the discretionary powers enjoyed by the L-G, and the duties of the Chief Minister with respect to the need to furnish information to the L-G.
- 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).
Supreme Court judgement
- In its 2018 verdict, the five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had held that the Lieutenant Governor’s (L-G) 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 L-G.
- The court held that requiring prior concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor would absolutely negate the ideals of representative governance and democracy conceived for the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi by Article 239AA of the Constitution. It also ruled that the L-G was bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers.
Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act
- The Parliament has recently passed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021.
- It amends certain powers and responsibilities of the Legislative Assembly and the Lieutenant Governor.
Highlights of the Act
Restriction on laws passed by the Assembly
- The amendment provides that the term “government” referred to in any law made by the Legislative Assembly will imply Lieutenant Governor (LG).
Rules of Procedure of the Assembly
- The original Act allows the Legislative Assembly to make Rules to regulate the procedure and conduct of business in the Assembly. The amendment provides that such Rules must be consistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha.
Inquiry by the Assembly into administrative decisions
- The amendment act prohibits the Legislative Assembly from making any rule to enable itself or its Committees to:
- consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the NCT of Delhi and
- conduct any inquiry in relation to administrative decisions.
- Further, the act provides that all such rules made before its enactment will be void.
Assent to Bills
- The parent Act requires the LG to reserve certain Bills passed by the Legislative Assembly for the consideration of the President.
- These Bills are those: (i) which may diminish the powers of the High Court of Delhi, (ii) which the President may direct to be reserved, (iii) dealing with the salaries and allowances of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and members of the Assembly and the Ministers, or (iv) relating to official languages of the Assembly or the NCT of Delhi.
- The latest amendment requires the LG to also reserve those Bills for the President which incidentally cover any of the matters outside the purview of the powers of the Legislative Assembly.
LG’s opinion for executive actions
- The parent Act specifies that all executive action by the government, whether taken on the advice of the Ministers or otherwise, must be taken in the name of the LG.
- The amendment adds that on certain matters, as specified by the LG, his opinion must be obtained before taking any executive action on the decisions of the Minister/ Council of Ministers.
What are the state government’s fears?
- For 2015 to 2018, the state government was engaged in a constant battle with the Centre over policy decisions and the powers of the L-G vis-à-vis the elected government. The Supreme Court judgment gave it a freer hand in terms of policy decisions.
- 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 riders for women and doorstep delivery of ration.
- The amendments will have far-reaching implications. By making it mandatory for the elected government to route all its files through the L-G, the amendments will essentially take away the government’s autonomy and the dream for full statehood for the state, which each political party has promised the electorate at various times.
- The Centre has however said the new act seeks to clarify the expression of government in order to give effect to the interpretation made by the Supreme Court in its 2018 verdict.
Why in News?
- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued a gazette notification stating that the provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory (GNCT) of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, would be deemed to have come into effect from April 27.