Delhi’s lame duck Assembly

Source: The Hindu

Relevance: The GNCTD Act impact the functions of the Delhi Legislative Assembly and Federalism.

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD)(Amendment) Act, 2021 is criticised as a retrograde law. The bulk of criticism has been focused on the reduced autonomy of the elected government and the consequent vesting of several crucial powers in the unelected Lieutenant Governor.

However, what deserves equal condemnation is the Act’s assault on the functioning of Delhi’s Legislative Assembly. It also has been sought to be reduced to a lame duck.

About the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Act:

The GNCTD Act was enacted in 1992, the Legislative Assembly was given the power to regulate its own procedure, as well as the conduct of its business. The Act provided a unique constitutional position to Delhi. It is neither a full state nor a centrally governed Union Territory.

Challenges with the recent amendment:
  • No more functional independence: The amendment made the standards of procedure and conduct of the business of Delhi Assembly firmly tethered to that of the Lok Sabha. Thus, depriving Delhi’s elected MLAs of power to conduct effective business in Assembly.
  • The Amendment prohibits the Assembly from making any rule. It enables either itself or its committees to consider any issue concerned with “the day-to-day administration of the capital” or “conduct inquiries in relation to administrative decisions”.
    • The most insidious impact of this shall be the exercise of free speech in the Assembly and its committees.
    • It prohibits the elected Assembly by law from discussing matters concerning the day-to-day administration of its own territory.
  • Impact on committees: 
    • In general, the committees perform away from the glare of cameras, conduct Inquiries, examine documents and evidence, report relevant issues. The deliberations and inputs of committees often pave the way for intelligent legislative action.
    • The Amendment made it impossible for committees to perform their functions. As the Act hamper the power to conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions.
    • So, the critical legislative functions that have rendered the Delhi Assembly a ‘legislature’ will now remain in name only.
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