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Statehood for Delhi

Context:

The Aam Admi Party has launched a campaign for full statehood for Delhi

Constitutional Debate and Constitutional Provisions:

  • There has been considerable debate over statehood issue of Delhi. Lala Deshbandhu Gupta advocated for statehood for Delhi
  • However, the constituent assembly in the Constitution of India (1950) constituted four categories of states in the First Schedule – Part A, B, C and D.
  • All provinces under the rule of a presidential Chief Commissioner (except Andaman and Nicobar Islands) were incorporated in Part C.
  • Article 239-every UT shall be administrated by the president through an administrator appointed by him/her.
  • 69th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1991-Government of National Capital Territory Act
  • Inclusion of Article 239AA- Granted Special Status to Delhi among Union Territories (UTs) (also Pondicherry)
  • Provided Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers responsible to such Assembly
  • Empowered to make laws for Delhi on all matters in the State and Concurrent Lists

Exception:

  1. public order and police
  2. municipal services like water, drainage, electricity, transport
  3. land
  4. Jurisdiction of courts.
  • The Council of Ministers will aid and advise the LG in the exercise of his functions in relation to matters with respect to which the Legislative assembly has power to make law.
  • In the case of a difference the LG can refer it to the president

Important Court Judgements:

2016:

  • The Delhi High Court held that Lieutenant Governor had primacy in administering the NCT Delhi
  • The Court upheld the Centre’s notification of 2015 which overruled the 1998 notification (The 1998 notification stated that the LG of Delhi should consult the chief minister on matters of public order, police and services).
  • The notification said the administrative powers of the L-G was not only in matters pertaining to public order, land, and police but also in services

Criticism of the judgement:

  • The Article 239 was basically designed to limitthe powers of the Lieutenant Governor.
  • Chief limitation imposed on the LG was that he had to act upon the aid and advice of the elected government
  • However, the Delhi High Court judgement empowered the LG of Delhi and undermined the powers of the government in Delhi. This might hinder the effective governance and development in NCT as the LG might misuse its power of discretion

2017:

  • The AAP led Delhi government had moved to Supreme Court alleging that the LG of Delhi has been interfering in the administration which has proven to be detrimental in implementing welfare measures in Delhi.
  • The SC observed that constitution provides more power to the LG than governors and the LG can act to his own discretion on matters stated under the law
  •  However, the Court further added that lieutenant governor does not have the jurisdiction to pronounce Delhi government’s decisions correct or not. He can only, in the situation of disagreement, refer the matter to the President for decision.

Why is the demand for full statehood?

  1. Delhi Development Authority (DDA): The Delhi government has no say over the affairs of DDA. This hinders the effective allocation, use of land and implementing welfare schemes.
  2. Police: Due to absence of control over the police force, the Delhi government faces problem in proper maintenance of law and order in the state.
  3. Municipal Corporation of Delhi: Government of Delhi has no control over the MCD. The government is of the opinion that it hinders in implementing development measures.
  4. Role of LG:
  • The role and power of LG and Delhi government’s Council of Ministers has always been an area of contestation.
  • The LG has often been accused of delays and disruptions in the work of the elected government
  1. Delhi Cadre in UPSC:
  • The ever increasing population and diverse nature of Delhi necessitates a cadre of its own which would not be subjected to frequent transfers

Why Delhi has not been given statehood?

  1. Critical infrastructure:

Being the national capital, Delhi hosts various critical infrastructures such as parliament, presidential estates, and embassies.  Maintenance of these is extremely important and cannot be handed over to a different entity

  1. Administration:
  • Granting statehood might lead to various administrative problems especially in law and order which would be detrimental for the national capital
  • Quality of governance might decline due to impact on finances
  1. Security concerns
  • Security of embassies, parliaments
  • Further, there is issue of safety and security of visiting dignitaries of different countries and also head of states. The responsibility of ensuring security to them lies on Centre and state cannot be entrusted with it
  1. Land:
  • Control over land is required especially in areas with central government institutions, embassies

International Cases:

Washington DC:

  • The US Congress has not agreed to the demand for Statehood for Washington DC
  • The citizens of Washington DC do not have any representatives in the US senate. It has only one non-voting representative in the US House of Representatives.
  • However, there are examples of city-states as well. Example: Brussels (Belgium) and Berlin (Germany)

Way Forward:

  1. Though granting absolute statehood is not desirable, there should be considerable sharing of power.
  2. The elected government in Delhi should be provided a decisive say in the municipal body for a cohesive approach, and proper urban planning
  3. The state government should also be given more authority on the police and made accountable in controlling crime
  4. The misuse of discretionary powers of the L-G of Delhi, if any, should be checked
  5. Coordinated efforts by Centre and Delhi government for effective governance and to uphold public interest
  6. The dispute over the powers of L-G of Delhi and elected government of Delhi should be resolved.
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