Context: The Supreme Court has disputed the Lieutenant Governor’s authority of nominating the members to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi without the aid and advice of counsel of ministers.
The Current Governance Model of New Delhi
- Delhi enjoys special status in India. The National Capital Territory of Delhi Act (NCTDA), 1991 created Delhi as a special union territory with the features of a state.
- The 69th Amendment of the Constitution in 1991 gave Delhi the special status.
- The amendment inserted new Articles 239AA and 239AB after Article 239A of the Constitution.
- It deals with the Administration of Union territories. It has two provisions:
- A Union territory shall be administered by the President acting through an administrator to be appointed by him with such designation as he may specify, except as otherwise provided by Parliament.
- The President may appoint the Governor of a State as the administrator of an adjoining Union territory, and he shall exercise his functions independently of his Council of Ministers.
- As per Article 239AA:
- The ‘Union Territory of Delhi’ came to be known as the ‘National Capital Territory of Delhi’ (NCT).
- The ‘Lieutenant Governor’ (LG) became the administrator of the NCT.
- A Legislative Assembly with the power to make laws for the NCT with respect to the matters in the State List and Concurrent List of the Constitution was set up.
- However, the Legislative Assembly was not empowered to make laws on public order, the police, and land.
- A Council of Ministers and a Chief Minister for Delhi was set up to ‘aid and advice’ the LG on those matters that the Legislative Assembly was empowered to make laws on.
- In case of a difference of opinion, LG shall refer it to the President for decision and act according to the decision given thereon by the President.
- Article 239AB: It provides for president’s rule in Delhi when the administration of the territory cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of Article 239AA. President’s rule is imposed on a report from the LG.
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021
- It amended the Sections 21, 24, 33 and 44 of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991.
- Key provisions of the amendment include:
- Meaning of government: The Amendment Act mentions that the term “government” in any law made by the Legislative Assembly shall mean the L-G.
- Lt. Governor’s upper hand: The act makes it necessary for Delhi government to obtain the opinion of the lieutenant governor before taking any executive action.
- Making rules: The Amendment Act bars the Assembly or its committees from making rules to take up matters concerning day-to-day administration, or to conduct inquiries in relation to administrative decisions.
- Statement of objects & reasons of the Act: The Union government claims that the amendment Act seeks to give effect to the Supreme Court’s interpretation and that it “further defines” the responsibilities of the elected government and the Lt Governor in line with the Constitutional scheme.
What are the Key Issues with the Current Model of Governance of Delhi?
- Undermining the elected government: The LG, who will be the government, is under no obligation to implement any law passed by the assembly or carry out the directions of the house as he is not responsible to the assembly.
- Lack of Executive Accountability: The Lieutenant Governor, who is the head of government, is not accountable to the assembly, which undermines the principle of executive accountability.
- Against the privilege of legislature: Framing the rules to conduct its proceedings is thus a part of the privilege each house of a legislature enjoys.
- Delay in decision-making: The requirement for LG’s approval for many decisions has led to delays in decision-making, which has impacted the development and governance of the city.
- Accountability issues: The division of responsibilities between the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor has led to difficulties in fixing responsibility for actions and decisions.
- Against Co-operative Federalism: The Act not only negates cooperative federalism but also upturns the fundamental principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Government of NCT Delhi vs Union of India case (2018).
- Control over Services Department: Governance has always been a contentious issue since Delhi is not a full state and the Services department comes under the L-G.
Important Supreme Court judgments