The central government has notified the amended Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act (GNCTD), 2021, giving more power to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) over the elected Delhi Government. In other words, the “Government of Delhi” is now the “Lieutenant Governor of Delhi”.
The controversial law was passed by the Parliament last month amid a walkout by Opposition parties. With the law passed, the Delhi government must take the Lieutenant Governor’s opinion before passing any executive action. The Lieutenant Governor is a representative of the central government. The Aam Aadmi Party government accused the BJP of using the LG to rule over Delhi. For several years, the BJP failed to win the Delhi Assembly election.
Earlier, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has accused the Modi government of attempting to rule Delhi through a backdoor channel. Sisodia called the GNCTD Bill undemocratic and unconstitutional. He added that the elected government of Delhi will mean nothing once the bill is implemented. “By bringing this Bill in the Parliament, the Centre has made it clear that it wants to rule Delhi through the ‘backdoor’ by making the L-G ever more powerful,” Sisodia pointed out.
Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy had introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha last month. The Bill changes the definition of “government” to “Lieutenant General” instead of the Delhi government. The Bill also states that before taking any executive action, the opinion of the L-G must be taken. The Bill also restricts the laws passed by the Delhi Assembly in some areas.
Shortly after the Bill was introduced, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the BJP is trying to curtail the powers of the AAP government after the people of Delhi rejected the BJP in the Assembly and municipal elections. “After being rejected by people of Delhi (eight seats in Assembly, zero in MCD bypolls), BJP seeks to drastically curtail powers of elected government through a Bill in LS today. Bill is contrary to the Constitution Bench judgement. We strongly condemn BJP’s unconstitutional and anti-democracy move,” Kejriwal said in a tweet.
Since the Modi government came to power in 2014, the AAP-led Delhi government and the Delhi L-G have been at loggerheads over administrative issues. In May 2015, Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Centre using the L-G to interfere in the Delhi government’s functioning. The tussle between the Delhi government and the L-G reached the doorstep of the Delhi High Court.
While Home Minister Amit Shah claiming that the Bill will define the responsibilities as per the constitutional scheme of the governance of Delhi as interpreted by the SC, Kejriwal is alleging that the Bill is a “dilution of the SC judgement”. Kejriwal also said that according to Article 239AA, except land, police and public order, the legislative assembly can make laws on state and other matters. This means that the Centre has powers to only public order, land and police.