Condemnation of the move by the Kejriwal government was swift with the CM himself calling it “unconstitutional and undemocratic”.
Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2021 says the LG can specify any matter for which the elected government will need to get his “opinion” and that the expression, “Government”, referred to in any law to be made by the assembly shall mean the LG.
Sources said this is expected to pave the way for the capital to become like any other UT. However, the AAP government believes that it is designed to cripple its functioning.
According to the bill’s objects and reasons, it is aimed at ending the lack of clarity on what proposal or matters are required to be submitted to the LG before issuing orders. Junior home minister G Kishan Reddy introduced the bill, which, sources in the government say, is a bid to clarify “ambiguities” following two judgments by the Supreme Court.
Sisodia: Dangerous Consequences For Federal Structure
Slamming the move, Kejriwal tweeted: “After being rejected by the people of Delhi (8 seats in Assembly, 0 in MCD bypolls), BJP seeks to drastically curtail powers of elected government through a bill in Lok Sabha today. Bill is contrary to Constitution Bench judgment. We strongly condemn BJP’s unconstitutional and anti-democracy move.” BJP had got eight out of 70 seats in the Delhi assembly election held early last year, and in the recently concluded byelections for five municipal wards, it didn’t win any. AAP claimed four and Congress one.
SC had on July 4, 2018, observed that the council of ministers is only under an obligation to “inform” the LG of its decisions and “no concurrence is mandated”. In a February 14, 2019 order, the SC had observed the LG was bound by the aid and advice of his council of ministers in matters where the assembly has legislative powers, and the only exception was a proviso to Article 239AA, which allowed G to refer to the President any issue on which there was a difference of opinion with the council of ministers. In such a case, the court said, the LG would be bound by the President’s decision.
The Centre seeks to add a new provision in Section 44 of the Act, which deals with the conduct of business, to make it mandatory to seek the LG’s opinion before implementation of any decision. The proposed amendment says, “Provided that before taking any executive action in pursuance of the decision of the council of ministers or a minister, to exercise powers of government, state government, appropriate government, lieutenant-governor, administrator or chief commissioner, as the case may be, under any law in force in the capital, the opinion of the lieutenant-governor in term of proviso to clause (4) of Article 239AA of the Constitution shall be obtained on all such matters as may be specified, by a general or special order, by the lieutenant governor.”
Article 239AA deals with the special provisions with respect to Delhi. Sources said with the introduction of this provision, the elected government in the capital won’t have any discretion of sending proposals to the LG. “This will settle the matter for ever. There had been several cases when proposals were not referred to the LG,” said a source.
In another proposal, the Centre has said that the LG shall not give assent to a bill passed by the assembly on any matter which falls outside the purview of the powers conferred on the legislative assembly and he can reserve it for the consideration of the President.
The amendment bill also seeks to ensure that the business in the assembly is run in accordance with Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in House of People (Lok Sabha). This provision will put an end to any scope for criticising any leader or person who is not present or isn’t a member of the house. Sources said there have been several instances when names of top central government leaders were taken on the floor of Delhi assembly.
Another major provision is that the assembly shall not make any rule to enable itself or its committees to consider the matters of day-to-day administration or to conduct inquiries in relation to any administrative decision. This will provide a shield to officers who often face the fear of being summoned to the assembly or its committees for administrative decisions, a source said. Interestingly, the proposed amendment also specifies that any rule made in contravention of this provision before commencement of the amended Act of 2021 shall be void.
“The Bill says – 1. For Delhi, ‘Government’ will mean LG, then what will the elected government do? 2. All files will go to LG. This is against 04.07.2018 Constitution Bench judgment which said that files will not be sent to LG, elected government will take all decisions and send copy of decision to LG,” Kejriwal stated in another tweet.
Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the bill will render the elected CM meaningless and have dangerous consequences for the country’s federal structure. Sisodia convened a press conference at Delhi Secretariat and launched an attack on the BJP-led Centre.
“The BJP-led central government has taken an unconstitutional and undemocratic decision to curtail the powers of Delhi’s elected government. This bill will render elections and decisions of an elected government for its people meaningless. It would just be LG of Delhi, backed by Union government, taking decisions for the people which is highly undemocratic and against all ideals of the Constitution,” said Sisodia.
“This bill will stall Delhi’s progress by giving undue powers to the LG,” he said. “All the decisions taken by Delhi government for growth of the city have seen an intrusion by the LG. Files regarding the progress of mohalla clinics, CCTV installation, free electricity, water and schools have gathered dust with the LG owing to lack of support from his office.”
Sisodia said “the reason why BJP is going against the Constitution and keeping the LG in power is because it does not want the people of Delhi to benefit from the unique and quality provisions in education, healthcare, free water and electricity. BJP has meddled with the welfare and provisions for people in various states where it holds power and now wants to ensure that the people of Delhi do not benefit from rightful provisions and initiatives of Delhi government.” Sisodia said the government will explore all available remedies.