The Government of National Capital Territory (GNCT) of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, which gives primacy to the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) over the elected government in the city, has come into force.
Provisions of the GNCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act 2021:
- It amended the Sections 21, 24, 33 and 44 of the 1991 Act.
- States that the “government” in the National Capital Territory of Delhi meant the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi.
- It gives discretionary powers to the L-G even in matters where the Legislative Assembly of Delhi is empowered to make laws.
- It seeks to ensure that the L-G is “necessarily granted an opportunity” to give her or his opinion before any decision taken by the Council of Ministers (or the Delhi Cabinet) is implemented.
- It bars 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.
- The latest amendment will greatly reduce the efficiency and timeliness of the Delhi government by making it imperative for it to hold consultations with the L-G even when a situation demands urgent action.
- Significantly, the L-G is not obliged to give his opinion to the State government within a time frame. Critics argue that the L-G could politically exploit these unbridled powers to hamper the government’s administrative work and thus turn the political tides against the incumbent if he so desires.
- It is against the spirit of ‘Federalism.”
Union Government’s Stand:
- It is in keeping with the Supreme Court’s July 2018 ruling on the ambit of powers of the L-G and the Delhi government following several headliner controversies between the two.
- The purported fair objectives of the Act, include enhancing public accountability and easing out technical ambiguities related to everyday administration.
- This will increase administrative efficiency of Delhi and will ensure better relationship between the executive and the legislator.
- The GNCTD Act was enacted in 1991 to “supplement provisions of the Constitution relating to the Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers for the National Capital Territory of Delhi”.
- It enabled the process of an elected government in Delhi.
- The Supreme Court had in the past appreciated the 1991 developments, stating that the real purpose behind the Constitution (69th Amendment) Act, 1991 is to establish a democratic set-up and representative form of government wherein the majority has a right to embody their opinions in laws and policies pertaining to the NCT of Delhi subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution.
69th Amendment Act, 1992
- It added two new Articles 239AA and 239AB under which the Union Territory of Delhi has been given a special status.
- Article 239AA provides that the Union Territory of Delhi be called the National Capital Territory of Delhi and its administrator shall be known as Lt. Governor.
- It also creates a legislative assembly for Delhi which can make laws on subjects under the State List and Concurrent List except on these matters: public order, land, and police.
- It also provides for a Council of Ministers for Delhi consisting of not more than 10% of the total number of members in the assembly.
- Article 239AB provides that the President may by order suspend the operation of any provision of Article 239AA or of all or any of the provisions of any law made in pursuance of that article. This provision resembles Article 356 (President’s Rule).
Point of Friction:
- However, over the years, there was friction between the Chief Minister and the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) over power-sharing.
- The focal point of these conflicts was that in case of a difference between the L-G and the Council of Ministers on any matter,
- The matter was to be referred to the President by the L-G for his decision,
- And pending such a decision the L-G was empowered to take any action on the matter as he deemed right.
- In the Government of NCT of Delhi vs Union of India and Another in 2018 case, the SC held that
- The government was not under obligation to seek the concurrence of the L-G on its decisions and
- That any differences between them should be resolved keeping in view the constitutional primacy of representative government and cooperative federalism.
- Essentially, the SC judgment made it extremely difficult for the L-G to refer such matters to the President.
SOURCE: THE HINDU ,THE ECONOMIC TIMES ,MINT