Delhi efforts towards statehood in Vain?

India Mar 30, 2021

Within ten days of its introduction of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) (GNCTD) Bill, 2021 in the Lok Sabha, it received the approval from both the Houses of the Parliament. The GNCTD Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 22nd March and by the Rajya Sabha on 24th March. This Bill amended the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 which was implemented to supplement the Constitutional Provisions with regards to the functioning of the Government and Legislative Assembly in Delhi.

Why the amendment?

According to the new Bill, the Lieutenant Governor (LG) will have more powers and thereby ensure greater accountability of the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory. Under the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill, the Government called attention to Section 44 of the 1991 Act which is concerned with the conduct of the business and that the amendment was introduced in order to give effect to the interpretation of the Supreme Court of India in Government of NCT of Delhi v/s Union of India. The Apex Court had noted in 2018 that the LG of Delhi did not enjoy independent decision-making powers and was bound to follow the aid and advice of the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers in such matters other than public order police and land.

Highlights of the Bill

The Bill intends to redefine Government as the LG for Delhi and this would apply to all laws made by the Legislature in Delhi. Furthermore, under Section 3 under the amendment, the powers of the LG would extend through the addition of a new clause to Section 24 of the 1991 Act which is concerned with the assent to the bills. According to the new clause, any matters that fall out of the purview of the powers enjoyed by the Legislative Assembly will also be covered.

The amendment also includes under a new clause under Section 33 that the Legislative Assembly will not make any such rules that would enable itself or the committees formed by it to consider matters regarding everyday administration or carryout inquiries relating to administration of Delhi. Moreover, these provisions have a retrospective effect, i.e. all existing committees will be voided.

Section 44 will be amended to include a clause that states that the Government has to compulsorily get the opinion of the LG on all matters prior to any executive action being taken in order to ensure accountability.

Criticisms of the Bill

There are a few criticisms faced by the 2021 Bill. The amendment aims to bring about far-reaching and drastic changes in the administration of Delhi. Because of this, many opined that due deliberations should have been carried out over a period longer than what was actually spent on the Bill in the two Houses. Because of the seriousness of the Bill, it could even have been sent to a Select Committee for referral as many of the members of Opposition had demanded. Some scholars fear that these amendments and making the LG synonymous with Delhiā€™s Government will reverse the attempts of Delhi to gain statehood that have been in works for over two decades.

Although political clashes are expected between the Centre and Arvind Kejriwal led Delhi Government, once the amendments are notified, one can expect a smoother relation between the National Capital Territory and the Centre.

This article has been written by Ruchira Sarma for The Paradigm.

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