VALIDITY OF NEW NCT BILL
Author : Poorvi Rewaliya
On Monday. 15th March 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) introduced a new bill in the Lok Sabha, an amendment to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991. This act outlines the powers of Assembly, duties of the Chief Minister and the discretionary powers enjoyed by the Lieutenant- Governor.
The Union Territory of Delhi, with a Legislative Assembly came into being through Articles 239AA and 239BB of the Constitution as inserted by the Constitution (Sixty-Ninth Amendment) Act, 1991. The administrator, therefore, be appointed under Article 239 under the head ‘Lieutenant-Governor’ or ‘L-G’ by the President on the Centre’s advice. Although, in UTs the real power lies in the hands of L-G, except in NCT of Delhi and Puducherry, where the powers are shared between Council of Ministers headed by Chief Minister.
According to the existing act, the Legislative Assembly is empowered to make laws in all matters except in Land, Public Order and Police.
WHAT DID THE CONSTITUTION BENCH SAY?
The Supreme Court, on 4th July 2018, had ruled out that L-G can interfere in any decision of the Delhi government but not in ‘every decision’. The apex court further said that L-G is bound by ‘aid and advise’ of the Delhi government except in matters related to ‘Land, Public Order and Police’. The status of L-G of Delhi is not that of a governor and is an administrator in a limited sense and the elected government didn’t require to obtain L-G’s assent or opinion on day-to-day affairs but needed to inform the L-G’s office, the Apex Court had said. It also pointed out that elected government should keep in their mind that Delhi is not a state.
CHANGES AFTER THE AMENDMENTS IF BILL IS CLEARED
The amendment seeks to define the roles of Council of Ministers and L-G in Delhi. Along with that this bill gives discretionary powers to L-G in matters with which the Legislative Assembly is empowered to make laws. This bill also proposed, under Section 21 of this act, that ‘government’, for any law passed by the Legislative Assembly, in the Act would mean the ‘L-G of NCT of Delhi’. The amendment in Section 24 proposes that L-G will not give assent to any bill which is passed by Delhi Assembly, for those matters which falls outside the powers of Legislative Assembly. The Centre also contended that they want to expand the say of L-G in day-to-day functioning of Delhi.
Also, the government must obtain opinion of L-G before implementation of any decision and he can also specify matters for which his opinion needs to be sought. This Bill proposed to amend Sections 21, 24, 43 and 44 of 1991 Act. They added that the Bill will promote harmonious relations and will further define the powers and responsibilities of the elected government and L-G.
RESPONSE OF DELHI GOVERNMENT
Delhi government is opposing the bill and on Tuesday they announced that they will protest against the Centre’s move, at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday. Delhi CM and Aam Adami Party chief Arvind Kejriwal accused Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government is trying to curtail powers of elected government through a Bill in Lok Sabha and called it a ‘murder of constitutional democracy’.
With this, it can be concluded that, this Bill will seize the powers of Delhi’s elected government and give it to Centre-appointed L-G. It is an attempt to restrict the powers of the elected government in Delhi. This proposal by the Centre in the Lok Sabha is aiming to reduce the autonomy of the democratically-elected government. After its implementation, the roles of the elected government will reduce.