In a major setback to the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi Government, President Ram Nath Kovind has given his approval to a controversial Bill that terms the Delhi ‘government’ as the ‘Lieutenant-Governor’.
With President Kovind’s approval, the Bill has now become a law and the Union Home Ministry will announce when it will come into effect. The law gives the central government’s representative Lieutenant-Governor more power over the elected Delhi government. The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill (GNCTD Bill) was passed in the Rajya Sabha last week amid a walkout by the opposition parties including the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The AAP government has alleged that the Centre bought the Bill since the BJP could not win the last three Assembly elections held in Delhi. AAP also went on to make a bizarre claim that Prime Minister Modi and the BJP were scared of Arvind Kejriwal and the work his government was doing in Delhi. For many years, the AAP government has repeatedly accused the BJP of trying to rule Delhi by proxy through the Lieutenant-Governor.
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.