Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021_00.1
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Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: Federalism:Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure; Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

 

Context

  • The Government of National Capital Territory (GNCT) of Delhi (Amendment) Act, passed by the Parliament, has come into force recently.
  • It amends Sections 21, 24, 33 and 44 of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991.

Features of the GNCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021

  • Strengthening the position of the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) of Delhi:
    • Prior approval of the L-G: before taking any executing action based on decisions taken by the Cabinet or any individual minister.
    • Restriction on laws passed by the Assembly: Act provides that the term “government” referred to in any law made by the Legislative Assembly will imply LG of Delhi.
    • Widening the discretionary powers of L-G
  • Rules of Procedure of the Assembly: Rules made by Legislative Assembly to regulate the procedure and conduct of business in the Assembly shall be consistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha.
  • Limits the powers of Assembly in administrative decisions: Act prohibits the Legislative Assembly from making any rule to enable itself or its committees to:
    1. Consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the NCT of Delhi and
    2. Conduct any inquiry in relation to administrative decisions.

It also provides that all such rules made before its enactment will be void.

Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021_50.1

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Criticism

  • Compromise the spirit of Federalism: as many of the above features seem to give priority to L-G of Delhi (appointed by President of India) over elected Delhi government.
  • Affecting governance of Delhi: as elected government has to take prior consent of the L-G, which may affect speed and efficacy of the governance.
  • Lack of any timeline for L-G to give his/her opinion: A politically motivated L-G could exploit this loophole to hamper elected government’s various administrative functions.
  • Impact on Committees: Prohibiting Committees to conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions(an extremely broad exception) completely negates the ability of committees to function effectively as the Assembly’s advisors and agents.
    • This will also affect quality of quality of legislative work emanating from the Assembly.
  • Against supreme court’s 2018 judgement:In the Government of NCT of Delhi vs Union of India and Another in 2018 case, the SC held that:
    • The LG’s concurrence is not required on issues other than police, public order and land.
    • That any differences between them should be resolved keeping in view the constitutional primacy of representative government and cooperative federalism.
    • Made it extremely difficult for the L-G to refer such matters to the President.
Constitutional provisions: Inserted by 69th Constitutional Amendment Act

  • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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).

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Union government’s justification

  • Aimed to clear ambiguities:in the roles of various stakeholders and provide a constructive rules-based framework for stakeholders within the government of Delhi to work in tandem with the Union government.
  • Provides Rules-based framework: which is important given that Delhi is also our national capital and carries the symbolism that comes with being the seat of the sovereign power.

 

Way forward

  • Defining the time-limit for L-G to give his opinion: this will reduce the possibility of misuse of powers by L-G under political influence and help in effective functioning of the elected government.
  • Upholding constitutional Principles of cooperative federalism in letter and spirit: by giving adequate space for elected government of Delhi, representing the will aspirations of the people of Delhi.
  • L-G should act in the spirit of constitutionalism instead of undue narrow pollical interest of concerned political party at the Center.
  • Interest of people of NCT of Delhi should be the guiding principle for both L-G and elected representatives of the Delhi assembly.

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