The Government of India National Capital Territory of Delhi Amendment Bill 2021 was recently passed by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Following that, the powers of the lieutenant governor of Delhi were expanded. The feud between the Delhi lieutenant governor and the state government has been going on for a long time. The explanation for this is that Articles 239 and 239AA of the Indian constitution establish a jurisdictional dispute between the Delhi government, the union government, and the lieutenant governor. Since the separation of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, India now has a total of eight union territories. Not every union territory has Lieutenant. Only Delhi, Puducherry, and Andaman and Nicobar Island have lieutenant governors to oversee state government operations. In India, lieutenant governors are considered the legislative heads of the UTs and are appointed by the president of India for a 5-year term.
Union government, Delhi government, GNCTD amendment bill 2021, Lieutenant Governor, Union Territories, articles 239 & 239 AA, Indian Constitution.
The Centre and Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi government are at odds again over a bill presented in the Lok Sabha. On March 15, 2021, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was adopted in Lok Sabha. While the central government claims that the Bill would specify the roles of the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor, the Delhi government and its top leaders claim that it would limit the powers of the Union Territory of Delhi’s government. The Bill modifies the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi Act of 1991. The Act establishes the constitution for the Legislative Assembly and the government of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi. The Bill changes the Legislative Assembly’s and the Lieutenant Governor’s powers and responsibilities.
The Centre says in the “statement of objects and reasons” clause that the reform Bill intends to add meaning to the Supreme Court’s understanding and “further defines” the roles of the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor in accordance with the Constitutional scheme. Among the major proposed amendments, one expressly states that the word “state” in any legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly refer to the lieutenant governor. The Bill also states that the opinion of lieutenant governor is required before the government takes any executive action based on Cabinet or specific governmental decisions.
Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution, passed as part of the 69th Amendment Act of 191, provides special provisions to the city of Delhi (National Capital Territory of Delhi).
- The union territory of Delhi will be recognised as the NCT (National Capital Territory) of Delhi and will be governed by the Lieutenant Governor. A legislative assembly will also be formed (with caste based reservations). It is natural that Delhi does not remain a union territory, because, apart from its location, Delhi is more than a UT; it is a megacity (on track to becoming one of the world’s most populous and heavily populated cities!). As a result, it was given NCT status and the establishment of a legislature so that the MLAs could legislate.
- Provisions for public order, police, and land (which are under the control of India’s states) are not under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government, but rather of the central government. This is to reduce clashes between the centre and the Delhi government in the event that competing governments form (imagine if Delhi is under the Congress, the union government is under the BJP, and the Congress legislates that police security not be given to the parliament!). Thank god, this cannot be because the Delhi government does not have the power to legislate on police matters.)
- 3. There will be a chief minister, a council of ministers, and other structures common to Indian states. Except for the fact that Delhi is considered as a state rather than a union territory, there is nothing unique about this location.
The new status of Delhi as a Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly is the result of the 69th Amendment Act, which included Articles 239AA and 239BB in the Constitution. The GNCTD Act was adopted simultaneously to complement the legislative rules regulating the Assembly and the Council of Ministers in the national capital. For all practical purposes, the GNCTD Act specifies the Assembly’s rights, the Lieutenant governor’s powers, and the Chief Minister’s responsibilities on the need to provide information to the lieutenant governor.
WHAT DOES THE BILL EXPLICITLY SAYS
The Bill aims to strengthen the authority of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi by establishing him as the “Government of Delhi.” It also states that the lieutenant governor’s advice must be sought on all matters stated by the LG before acting on decisions made by the Delhi government’s council of ministers.
- The bill seeks to amend the GNCT of Delhi Act, 1991, a constitutional provision that provides the framework for the operation of the Delhi legislative council and re-defines the Delhi government as the Lieutenant Governor.
- It limits the Delhi Assembly’s ability to perform its proceedings in accordance with the rules of procedure that it has established. It states that the rules established by the Delhi Legislative Assembly to govern the process and conduct of business in the assembly must be consistent with the rules established by the Lok Sabha to govern the procedure and conduct of business.
- The bill also forbids the legislative assembly from making any law to allow itself or its committees to consider matters of day-to-day administration of the NCT of Delhi and to hold any investigation in relation to administrative decisions, and any clause in place to that effect will be considered invalid.
- The bill also states that the lieutenant governor’s approval is required before taking any executive action based on a Delhi government decision on such matters as the lieutenant governor may specify.
- This bill also specifies that the rules made by the Delhi legislative assembly must be consistent with the rules of procedure and conduct of business in Lok Sabha.
According to the Centre, the Bill aims to “clarify the term “Government,” which in the sense of legislation to be passed by the Legislative Assembly of Delhi, shall mean the Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, consistent with the status of Delhi as a Union territory, to address the ambiguousness of the court’s definition in its decisions.” According to the Centre, Section 44 of the Act deals with business behaviour, and there is no structural framework given in the Act for successful time-bound execution of said section. Furthermore, the Bill states that there is little clarification as to what proposals or issues must be forwarded to the Lieutenant Governor before issuing an order. The Bill addresses Supreme Court rulings, noting that the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in its decision dated July 4, 2018, and the Division Bench of the Supreme Court, in its judgement dated February 14, 2019, have defined the provisions of Article 239AA of the Constitution relating to the system of governance in the Nct Of Delhi. The Bill also aims to ensure that the Lieutenant governor is given an ability to challenge the authority vested in him under presumption to clause (4) of article 239AA of the Constitution in a limited number of cases, as well as to set laws in matters that happen to fall beyond the scope of the Legislative Assembly’s scrutiny. It also aims to ensure the laws enacted by the Delhi Legislative Assembly are compliant with those enacted by the Upper house.
Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi chief minister, has listed two major objections. Arvind Kejriwal argues that the Bill notes that the word “state” would now apply to the “Lieutenant Governor,” and that all files must now be submitted to the Lieutenant governor. According to the GNCTD Bill: all files will be submitted to Lieutenant governor this is in contrast to the 4.7.18 Constitution Bench ruling, which said that “files will not be sent to Lieutenant governor, and the elected government will take all decisions and give a copy of the decision to Lieutenant governor”
In the case GNCT of Delhi V union of India & others, Supreme Court in its judgement for the bill said that lieutenant governor is only an administrative head and have limited powers and he have to take advice of council of minister in every matter except for land, police or public matters.
- Lieutenant governor cannot interfere with all the decision of Delhi government.
- The bill passed in Lok Sabha is contradicting Supreme Court’s decision by giving many powers to lieutenant governor.
The Supreme Court decided that the Lieutenant governor in the Union Territory of Delhi was not granted any autonomous decision-making authority. As a result, he must act on the Council of Ministers “assistance and advice.” The word “aid and advice” in Article 239AA (4) must be interpreted to encompass that the Lieutenant governor of the NCT of Delhi is bound by the Council of Ministers’ aid and advice, and that this is valid as long as the Lieutenant governor does not practice authority under the presumption to clause (4) of Article 239 AA. The Lieutenant governor has been granted no permission to make decisions of its own and. He must either act on the Council of Minister’s aid and advice or he must carry out the President’s decision on an emphasis given by him, it said. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, stated that under the current constitutional scheme, Delhi cannot be granted the status of a state. The court declared that the Lieutenant governor was not a governor of a territory, but rather a small administrator who served under the name of Lieutenant governor. It went further to state that the Constitution was “meaningful” and that “moral relativism has no place.” Anarchy has no room here.” “The position of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi is not that of a Governor of a State, but he remains an Administrator, in a restricted sense, operating with the title of Lieutenant Governor,” a bench of Justices A.K. Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud, and Ashok Bhushan had said in three parameters and therefore concurring orders. It also clarified that the elected government should remember that Delhi is not a province.
According to the Supreme Court’s opinion, the government should reconsider the NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill. Lieutenant governor should be able to serve as a mediator for enforcing the rule of the land and constitutional requirements thanks to the revised provisions.
- Image source- https://news.abplive.com/news/india/explained-what-is-so-contentious-about-the-nct-bill-2021-making-the-opposition-call-it-unconstitutional-1448684
- Barman Roy, Sourav (2021, Mar, 17) Centre versus state in Delhi- What is the matter? https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/national-capital-territory-of-delhi-bill-2021-lieutenant-governor-arvind-kejriwal-7229925/
- Sharma Saurabh (2021, Mar, 16 ) What is the GNCTD Bill and why Arvind Kejriwal protesting against it? https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/explained-what-is-the-gnctd-bill-and-why-is-arvind-kejriwal-protesting-against-it/2213583/