The Lok Sabha has passed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to enhance the powers of Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. The Bill amends the GNCT of Delhi Act, 1991, a legislation that provides framework for functioning of the (LG). Delhi Legislative Assembly and re-defines Delhi Government as the Lieutenant Governor It also provides that the opinion of the LG “shall be obtained on all such matters as may be specified by the LG, before taking any executive action on decisions of the Council of Ministers.
The Bill has been perceived as an attempt to circumvent the interpretation made by the Supreme Court in the Delhi v. LG case, holding that the LG is an administrative head in the limited sense” and that he is “bound by the aid and advise” of the Council of Ministers of Delhi Government, except in matters of land, police and public order. Many members apprehend that the Bill will subvert the elected Government of Delhi from functioning autonomously and will affect cooperative federalism.
Salient features of the Bill:
The Bill curbs the Delhi Assembly’s power to conduct its proceedings as per the rules of procedure made by it. It provides that the Rules made by the Delhi Legislative Assembly to regulate the procedure 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 also prohibits the Legislative Assembly from making any rule to enable itself or its Committees to:
- consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the NCT of Delhi and
- conduct any inquiry in relation to administrative decisions. Further, any provision in force having the above said effect will be void. This means that the Executive will not be accountable to the Legislature in Delhi.
Further, the Bill provides that the opinion of the LG must be obtained before taking any executive action on decisions of Delhi Government, on such matters as may be specified by the LG.
Comparing Bill with Supreme Court judgment
This last leg of the Bill, requiring the Government to mandatorily seek the Lieutenant Governor’s on the matters so specified by him may be contrasted with the observations made by the Supreme Court in GNCT of Delhi v. Union of India & Anr. (commonly known as Delhi v. LG case).
Delineating the boundaries of power between the Lieutenant-Governor and Delhi Government in the said judgment, the Supreme Court had held that the LG cannot interfere in each and every decision of the Delhi Government, and that the LG is bound by the aid and advise of the council of ministers of Delhi Government, except in matters of land, police and public order. The Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M Khanwilkar, Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan had ruled that “LG is an administrative head in the limited sense, and is not a Governor. He is bound by the aid and advise of NCT Government in areas other than those exempted”,
The Top Court observed that the elected representatives and the Council of Ministers of Delhi, being accountable to the voters of Delhi, must have the appropriate powers so as to perform their functions effectively and efficiently. It was held that the Parliamentary form of government is based on principle of “collective responsibility of the cabinet.
“If a well deliberated legitimate decision of the Council of Ministers is not given effect to due to an attitude to differ on the part of the Lieutenant Governor, then the concept of collective responsibility would stand negated,” the Supreme Court had held.
The Constitution bench added that the real purpose behind the Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991, which inserted Section 239AA (Special provisions with respect to Delhi) and paved way for setting up an elected Government in the Union Territory was “to establish a democratic setup and representative form of government wherein the majority has a right to embody their opinion in laws and policies pertaining to the NCT of Delhi subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution.”