While recent day-to-day disagreements between governors and governments of non-BJP ruled states raised questions on powers and the need for the office of the governor itself the BJP has revisited the topic in Parliament to consolidate the powers and position of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.
To give an interpretation to the ruling of the Supreme Court which said that the city government need not obtain the Lieutenant Governor’s “concurrence” on every issue of day-to-day governance, the Centre brought the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Parliament this week to redefine what “government” means.
While the day-to-day interference by the governor has been blamed by the AAP in the past and the regular squabbles even reached the top Court the Centre says it now wants to “promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive, and further define the responsibilities of the elected government and the LG” with this new Amendment.
An easy way to fix the relationship between the two, the Centre thought was to amend the definition of “government” to mean L-G in context of any law made by the legislative assembly.
The Bill seeks to add a subsection to Section 21 making it clear that the “expression ‘Government’ referred to in any law to be made by the Legislative Assembly shall mean the Lieutenant Governor”.
A second amendment is sought in Section 24, to add that the L-G will not assent to and pass on to the President for consideration any Bill which “incidentally covers any of the matters which falls outside the purview of the powers conferred on the Legislative Assembly”.
Another amendment seeks to add that before any executive action is taken in “pursuance of the decision of the Council of Ministers or a Minister” or to “exercise powers of the government”, the opinion of the L-G has to be obtained.
AAP has said that if the proposed amendments to The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 are passed, elections and the elected government in Delhi will become meaningless.
The Delhi government and Centre have been at loggerheads since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power for the second time in 2015. One of AAP’s biggest promises was to fight for full statehood for Delhi. While this has not been realised, and four areas – land, public order, police, and services – remain under the control of the L-G, the AAP had felt encouraged after a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the L-G would be bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers in matters that were not directly under the control of the L-G.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has protested against the Centre’s move saying the Bill was a way to curtail the powers of the state, and was against the order of the Supreme Court.
“After being rejected by 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,” Kejriwal tweeted.
The move has been protested by many leaders as being unconstitutional and undemocratic. Delhi ministers and AAP MPs, MLAs and councillors led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal staged a protest at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday against the Centre’s plan to give overarching power to the Lieutenant Governor.