Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has accused the Modi government of attempting to rule Delhi through a backdoor channel. Sisodia’s statement comes as the Centre and Delhi government are at loggerheads over the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Bill, 2021.
During a press conference, 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.
The Aam Aadami Party (AAP) government has accused the Centre of giving more powers to the Lieutenant General (L-G) and curtailing the powers of the Delhi government.
“The second proposed amendment to the bill is that all files will now have to go the L-G... If this is done, then what is the point of electing a government in the Capital through elections,” Sisodia said.
On Monday, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha. 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.
In 2016, the Delhi HC said that L-G does not have to act on the advice of the council of ministers and is the administrative head of the National Capital. After this verdict, the then L-G Najeeb Jung constituted a committee to look into the decisions taken by the AAP-led Delhi government. Meanwhile, the AAP government moved the Supreme Court against the High Court verdict. In 2018, the Supreme Court issued a verdict saying that the L-G cannot interfere in the decision of the Delhi government and is bound to act on the advice of the council of ministers.
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, excepting 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.