Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021
Mains level: The Centre’s Bill seeking to amend the law relating to the running of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
• The Centre’s Bill seeking to amend the law relating to the running of the National Capital Territory of Delhi claims that it is aimed at giving effect to the interpretation given by the Supreme Court judgments on Delhi’s governance structure.
• According to the bill, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, the “government” in Delhi would mean Lt Governor in context of all legislations to be passed by the state assembly.
Delhi governed by:
• Delhi holds a unique position in India’s administrative framework. As a Union territory, it is governed by the 1991 Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act.
• Act provides for both an elected assembly and an L-G appointed by the Union home ministry.
• The 69th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1991 provided a special status to the Union Territory of Delhi, and redesignated it the National Capital Territory of Delhi and designated the administrator of Delhi as the lieutenant (lt.) governor.
• It created a legislative assembly and a council of ministers for Delhi. Previously, Delhi had a metropolitan council and an executive council.
• But unlike full states, many important departments such as land, police and personnel appointments don’t come under the purview of the city government and report directly to the L-G.
The proposed changes:
• National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, Bill that gives overarching powers to the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Delhi in day-to-day functioning of the national Capital.
• According to the Bill, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, the “government” in Delhi would mean L-G in context of all legislations to be passed by the state assembly.
• The statement of objects and reasons of the Bill said this is in consistency with the status of Delhi as a Union Territory to address the ambiguities in the interpretation of the legislative provisions.
• The proposed changes are the very antithesis of what the Court has said. The Bill, if it becomes law, will wholly undermine the Court’s efforts to strengthen the elected government vis-à-vis the appointed Lieutenant Governor.
The Court verdict:
• The Constitution Bench verdict of July 4, 2018, said: “The Lieutenant Governor has not been entrusted with any independent decision-making power.
• He has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers, or he is bound to implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him.”
• The ‘aid and advice’ clause pertains only to matters on which the elected Assembly has powers under the State and Concurrent Lists, but with the exception of public order, police and land, and, wherever there are differences between the L-G and the elected government, the former should refer the question to the President.
• The Court was at pains to clarify that the power to refer “any matter” to the President did not mean that “every matter” should be referred thus.
• The guiding principle was that the elected government should not be undermined by the unelected administrator. The Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha does violence to this interpretation.
The Constitution empowers the L-G:
• The Bill seeks to declare that in the context of legislation passed by the Delhi Assembly, all references to the ‘government’ would mean the “Lieutenant Governor”. Indeed, Delhi is a Union Territory;
• It is somewhat incongruous for a territory with an elected House to be declared the sole domain of the L-G. The apex court had rightly concluded that the scheme set out in the Constitution.
• The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, envisages a collaborative structure that can be worked only through constitutional trust.
• The proviso to Article 239AA, which empowers the L-G to refer a difference of opinion with the Council of Ministers to the President, does not mean that, the administrator is given an opportunity to come up with a different opinion on every decision made by the Ministry.
• The bill will promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive, and further define the responsibilities of the elected government and the lieutenant governor, in line with the constitutional scheme of governance of National Capital Territory of Delhi, as interpreted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
• The ‘Union Territory’ concept is one of the many ways in which India regulates relations between the Centre and its units. It should not be used to subvert the basis of electoral democracy.
Q.1) With reference to the River Sarasvati, consider the following statements:
1. The Central government has reconstituted an advisory committee to chalk out a plan for studying the mythical Sarasvati river for the next two years.
2. The committee would continue to be chaired by the Culture Minister.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q.1) Highlights the pros and cons regarding the changes of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021.