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GNCT of Delhi Amendment Bill 2021 and Supreme Court’s Verdict

Synopsis: GNCT of Delhi Amendment Bill 2021 appears to go against the idea of representative government.

Introduction 

The Centre’s Bill is trying to amend the law that relates to the governance of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The bill claims that its aim is to implement the Supreme Court judgments on Delhi’s governance structure. However, the proposed changes are the very opposite of what the Court has said.

What was the Supreme Court’s 2018 verdict on the matter?
  • The Constitution Bench verdict in 2018 stated that the LG (Lieutenant Governor) has not been trusted with any independent decision-making power
  • The LG either has to act on the aid and advice of council ministers. Or, he has to implement the decision of the President on the matters referred to him.
  • The ‘aid and advice’ clause applies to the matters on which the Delhi Assembly has powers under the State and Concurrent Lists. This comes with an exception of public order, police, and land.
  • Wherever there are differences between the L-G and the elected government, the L-G should refer the question to the President.
  • Further, different judgments have clarified that the power to refer “any matter” to the President does not mean “every matter”.
  • This bill completely undermines the Court’s efforts. The judgment strengthened the elected government in relation to Lieutenant Governor. 

Read moreNCT Amendment Bill

What are the issues with the NCT amendment bill? 

The Court wanted to clarify that the power to refer any matter to the President did not mean that every matter should be referred. 

  1. Firstly, the Bill states all references to the government in the bills and orders would mean the LG. It is irrational to declare LG as the government, in the UT with an elected House.
    • As per the guiding principle, an elected government should not be undermined by the unelected administrator.
  2. Secondly, the provision to Article 239AA empowers L-G to refer the matter to the President, in case of difference of opinion. However, this does not mean that the administrator should come up with a different opinion on every government decision.
    • However, the bill provides the L-G with an opportunity to refer every matter to the President.
  3. Third, instead of Parliament identifying the matters on which the L-G’s opinion should be required, the Bill proposes that the L-G himself would specify such matters.

This bill amounts to a rollback of representative government. The Union Territory concept is one of the many ways in which India regulates relations between the Centre and its units. It should not be used to undermine the basis of electoral democracy.  

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