Opinion Based BlogConstitutional Law

GNCTD Amendment Act of New Delhi


Author: Shruti Majumdar, 3rd year B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) student at Department of Law, University of Calcutta.

INTRODUCTION

The Government of India passed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021 (or the GNCTD Amendment Act) on March 28, 2021.[1] It modifies the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act of 1991 to grant supremacy to the centrally appointed Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and subordinate the elected Delhi Government.[2]

The Ministry of Home Affairs stated in a release that, “the amendments to the GNCTD Act, 1991, would in no way change the constitutional and legal responsibilities of the elected government to take necessary action, in respect of the subjects transferred to them in the state and concurrent lists of the Constitution of India, including subjects such as health, education, etc,”[3] The Amendment Act’s aim, according to the Ministry, is to make it more applicable to the needs of the capital, to better clarify the roles of the elected Government and the Lieutenant Governor and finally to establish a cohesive alliance between the legislative and executive branches.

The Delhi government’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party slammed the Amendment for undermining the federal system of governance by shifting authority from an elected government to the Lieutenant Governor. AAP challenged the timing of the announcement, which came in the midst of another COVID wave, saying it would cause anarchy and detrimentally affect pandemic management.[4]

SALIENT FEATURES OF THE ACT

On Wednesday, 28th April 2021, the Central Government notified the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021 to be effective from the 27th of April. The ‘Contentious Bill’ was approved by Parliament on March 24th, 2021.[5]

The Act modifies the GNCT of Delhi Act of 1991, which serves as the basis for the operation of the Delhi Legislative Assembly, and re-defines the Delhi Government as the Lieutenant Governor. The Bill also forbids the Legislative Assembly from enacting any law that would enable itself or its Committees to: (i) deem matters of day-to-day administration of the NCT of Delhi, and (ii) perform any inquiry into policy making. Furthermore, any existing clause with the above result would be null and void.[6]

It limits the Delhi Assembly’s competence to implement its proceedings in accordance with the rules of procedure that it has established. It states that rules enacted by the Delhi Legislative Assembly to govern the process and conduct of business in the Assembly must be consistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha. The Bill states that the Lieutenant Governor’s approval is required before taking any executive action on Delhi Government decisions on matters stated by the LG. This bill further grants the LG authority in matters relating to the All India (Civil) Services and the Anti-Corruption Bureau, which were not under jurisdiction of the Delhi Legislative Assembly.

CENTRE’S RATIONALE BEHIND THE BILL

According to the Centre, Section 44 of the Act deals with business conduct, although there is no institutional framework in the Act to ensure that it is implemented in a timely manner. Furthermore, the Bill states that there is little clarification as to what proposals or issues must be forwarded to the Lieutenant Governor before an order can be sent.

The Bill also mentions Supreme Court judgments, stating that the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench, in its verdict dated 4 July 2018, and Division Bench, in its verdict dated 14 February 2019, have interpreted the provisions of Article 239AA of the Constitution pertaining to the governance system in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.[7]

The Bill also aims to ensure that the LG is offered a chance to practice the authority vested in him under proviso to clause (4) of article 239AA of the Constitution in a limited number of situations, as well as to set laws in matters that happen to fall beyond the scope of the Legislative Assembly’s scrutiny. It moreover aims to ensure the laws enacted by the Delhi Legislative Assembly are compliant with those enacted by the House of People.

PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE AND GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE

Parliament passed the bill last month – Lok Sabha on March 22, 2021 and Rajya Sabha on March 24, 2021.[8]

Various members of the parliament opposed the Bill and the leader of Opposition in the House, M. Mallikarjun Kharge said that the government is attempting to snatch the rights of elected officials in Delhi in order to operate a “proxy government” by handing over all powers to a nominated LG. He also claimed that such authority concentration violates constitutional standards, and that the Bill should be referred to a Select Review committee.

Sanjay Singh, a Delhi MP, has spoken out against the Bill, calling it unlawful. “The Council of Ministers shall be jointly accountable to the Legislative Assembly,” he said, referring to Article 239AA(6) of the Constitution.[9] He also spoke about the Constitution’s stance, where the Government has no legal authority to hold the Council of Ministers accountable to the LG by obtaining his approval for the execution of its orders.

Delhi, according to Bhupender Yadav, a BJP MP, is not a ‘full fledged state’. He explained that the region is basically a Union Territory, with the LG as its head, as defined by the Constitution. According to him, the Supreme Court claimed in its decision that the LG must be notified of all decisions taken by the Council of Ministers. He argued that the Bill’s sole purpose is to put the observation into action.[10]

Union Minister, G Kishan Reddy said that the bill does not recommend any constitutional changes. He stated that the Bill is only intended to clarify certain legal uncertainties. As per Reddy, the Bill neither deprives the Delhi government of any powers nor grants the LG any additional ones. The amendments, he said, were mandated to ensure issues presented in response to Supreme Court directives.

CONTROVERSY AROUND THE BILL

The Bill proposes to replace the word “Government” in the Act with “Lieutenant Governor,” a central government appointee, who is often seen as acting in the best interests of the Centre. The Delhi government, which had been engaged in a bitter conflict with the central government over the scope of the LG’s powers did not appreciate the court’s decision. The AAP protested at Jantar Mantar on March 17 to condemn the Centre’s step.

AAP argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling granted even more independence in policymaking, especially when it came to programmes like free energy, free bus rides for women, and rations delivered to their doorstep.

While the AAP had stated that it would appeal to the Supreme Court against the bill, Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi showcased his dissatisfaction on Twitter. Arvind Kejriwal expressed how he felt about the passing of the bill which was very doleful. He felt it was a ‘sad day’ for Indian Democracy. For many years, the Bill has been a point of conflict between Delhi’s ruling AAP government and the BJP-led central government. Kejriwal also accuses the Centre and the BJP of seeking to dramatically curb the powers of the elected government through a Bill in the Lok Sabha.[11]

Manish Sisodia, the Deputy Chief Minister, lashed out at the Centre, and tweeted claiming that the Bill was introduced because the NDA government is insecure about the current Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal.[12] Raghav Chadha, Vice Chairman of the Delhi Jal Board and an AAP MLA, also said that the decision was intended to stymie CM Arvind Kejriwal’s efforts.

On July 4, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the Lieutenant Governor’s concurrence was not required on any issue except those involving the police, public order, and territory. However, it was specifically stated that any decision reached by the Council of Ministers must be communicated to the Lieutenant Governor. [13]

CONCLUSION

One of the main reasons why the amendment is regarded so controversial is that it specifies the Lieutenant Governor’s advice to be requested on any and every decision made by the ministers. Officials claim that this will only cause delays in programmes and schemes and a huge number of files will have to be submitted to the LG and policymakers make a large number of decisions on a regular basis on a variety of topics.

The reforms would have far-reaching consequences that go beyond the AAP-BJP feud. By requiring the elected government to route all of its files through the Lieutenant Governor, the amendments effectively strips away the government’s sovereignty and the state’s hope of complete statehood, which each political party — the BJP, Congress, and AAP — have assured the electorate at different times. The Aam Aadmi Party has stated that it will fight tooth and nail for the restoration of power to Delhiites and will file a lawsuit against the legislation in the Supreme Court.

The citizens of India started pouring in tweets and expressing how they felt about the entire fiasco on social media, this was according to them ‘an act of murdering democracy’. They sympathised with Arvind Kejriwal and the Delhi Government and stated their disappointment on how BJP used its landslide victory to make up for two straight defeats in Delhi.


REFERENCES
  1. The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, (India).

  2. President Gives Assent To GNCTD Amendment Bill Enhancing Powers Of Delhi Lieutenant Governor, Live Law, (Mar. 28, 2021, 10:30pm), https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/president-gives-assent-to-gnctd-amendment-bill-enhancing-powers-of-delhi-lieutenant-governor-171873?infinitescroll=1.
  3. Ani, GNCTD Amendment Act doesn’t alter constitutional, legal responsibilities of elected govt: MHA, (Apr. 29,2021, 04:13pm), https://in.news.yahoo.com/gnctd-amendment-act-doesnt-alter-104352837.html.
  4. Grant of more powers to LG triggers fear of tussle with AAP govt during COVID, (Apr. 28,2021,11:03pm),https://in.news.yahoo.com/grant-more-powers-lg-triggers-173345359.html.
  5. KareenaEugene, GNCTD (Amendment) Act with effect from 27 April increases powers of Delhi Lieutenant Governor, Law Insider (Apr. 28, 2021),https://www.lawinsider.in/gnctd-amendment-act-with-effect-from-27-april-increases-powers-of-delhi-lieutenant-governor/.
  6. Centre Notifies GNCTD Amendment Act Increasing Powers Of Delhi LG With Effect , Live Law (Apr. 28,2021, 9:41 AM), https://livelaw.in/top-stories/centre-notifies-gnctd-amendment-act-which-enhances-powers-of-delhi-lg-with-effect-from-april-27-173237.
  7. Saurabh Sharma, EXPLAINED: What is the GNCTD Bill and why is Arvind Kejriwal protesting against it?, Financial Express (Mar. 16,2021, 01:14pm),https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/explained-what-is-the-gnctd-bill-and-why-is-arvind-kejriwal-protesting-against-it/2213583/.
  8. Govt in Delhi means L-G as GNCTD (Amendment) Act comes into force, Mint, (Apr. 28,2021, 10:35am), https://www.livemint.com/news/india/govt-in-delhi-means-l-g-as-gnctd-amendment-act-comes-into-force-11619584050046.html.
  9. Supra note 6.
  10. Supra note 6.
  11. Supra note 7.
  12. Supra note 7.
  13. Government of NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act comes into effect: The law and the controversy around it, explained, Times Now (Apr. 28,2021, 01:16pm),

    https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/government-of-nct-of-delhi-amendment-act-comes-into-effect-the-law-and-the-controversy-around-it-explained/750432.

     

What's your reaction?

Excited
0
Happy
0
In Love
0
Not Sure
0
Silly
0

You may also like

4.5 2 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments