Government of NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021
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.
Why in News?
- The Centre has introduced the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha, reviving the dispute on the distribution of powers between the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor.
What does the Bill say?
- In the “statement of objects and reasons” section, the Centre claims that the amendment Bill seeks to give effect to the Supreme Court’s interpretation and that it “further defines” the responsibilities of the elected government and the Lt Governor in line with the Constitutional scheme.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
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.
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