NCT of Delhi Amendment Bill, 2021

News: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) moved the NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to the Lok Sabha where it proposed that “government” in Delhi means the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

Present Status of Delhi:

  • Delhi’s current status as a UT with a Legislative Assembly is an outcome of the 69th Amendment Act through which Articles 239AA and 239BB were introduced in the Constitution.
  • The Act was passed simultaneously to supplement the constitutional provisions relating to the Assembly and the Council of Ministers in the national capital.
  • For all practical purposes, it outlined the powers of the Assembly, the discretionary powers enjoyed by the L-G, and the duties of the CM with respect to the need to furnish information to the L-G.
  • The L-G does have the power to refer any matter, over which there is a disagreement with the elected government, to the President under Article 239AA (4).
  • The Delhi Law Secretary had in 2019 written in an internal memo that the elected government cannot use the SC verdict to keep the L-G in the dark about its decisions.
  • But the SC had also categorically pointed out that the L-G should not act in a mechanical manner without due application of mind so as to refer every decision of the CM to the President.

What did Supreme Court say in 2018?

  • In its 2018 verdict, the five-judge Bench had held that the LG’s concurrence is not required on issues other than police, public order and land. It had added that decisions of the Council of Ministers will, however, have to be communicated to the LG.
  • The L-G was bound by the aid and advice if the council of ministers, it had said.
  • The Bench of then CJI status of the LG of Delhi is not that of a Governor of a State, rather he remains an Administrator, in a limited sense, working with the designation of Lieutenant Governor”.
  • It had also pointed out that the elected government must keep in mind that Delhi is not a state.

About the latest bill:

  • Proposes to amend Sections 21, 24, 33 and 44 of the 1991 Act.
  • Proposes that the “government” in the National Capital Territory of Delhi meant the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi.
  • Gives discretionary powers to the L-G even in matters where the Legislative Assembly of Delhi is empowered to make laws.
  • Seeks to ensure that the L-G is “necessarily granted an opportunity” to give her or his opinion before any decision taken by the Council of Ministers (or the Delhi Cabinet) is implemented.
  • Adds that the L-G’s opinion shall be obtained before the government takes any executive action based on decisions taken by the Cabinet or any individual minister.
  • Bars the Assembly or its committees from making rules to take up matters concerning day-to-day administration, or to conduct inquiries in relation to administrative decisions.

Impact of the bill:

  • Encouraged by the Supreme Court verdict, the elected government had stopped sending files on executive matters to the L-G before the implementation of any decision.
  • It has been keeping the L-G abreast of all administrative developments, but not necessarily before implementing or executing any decision.
  • But the amendment, if cleared, will force the elected government to take the L-G’s advice before taking any action on any cabinet decision.
  • The Bill seeks to bar the Assembly or its committees from making rules to take up matters concerning day-to-day administration, or to conduct inquiries in relation to administrative decisions.

Arguments of Delhi Govt.:

  • From 2015 to 2018, the government was engaged in a constant battle with the Centre over policy decisions and the powers of the L-G with the elected government.
  • The SC judgment gave the Delhi govt a freer hand in terms of policy decisions.
  • The government insiders have maintained that it was because of the judgment that the government was able to clear policy decisions like giving free power to those using under 200 units, free bus rides for women. The amendments will have far-reaching implications — beyond just the tussle between any political parties.