From the Viewsroom

Truce is broken

Poornima Joshi | Updated on March 18, 2021

Bill to upgrade the power of the LG in Delhi is uncalled for

Delhi underwent three traumatic years between 2015 and 2018 when the question of who actually ruled — the Lieutenant Governor or the Council of Ministers — led to a bitter power struggle. The then Chief Secretary, Anshu Prakash, accused AAP MLAs of having assaulted him. AAP, on its part, accused the Centre of usurping the legislature’s power through the LG. The CM and ministers staged a sit-in at the LG’s residence for days while the Centre continued to run Delhi on grounds that it is not a full State.

According to Article 239 AA, inserted into the Constitution with the 69th Amendment, Delhi is to be administered by the LG with the “aid and advise” of the CM and, in case of any difference of opinion, the LG is to refer the matter to the President. This system functioned quite smoothly till 2015 when Kejriwal assumed power. Ambiguities in the Constitutional scheme became glaring with a strong government both at the Centre and the State

The Supreme Court finally stepped in 2018 with a five-judge Constitution Bench emphasising the supremacy of the legislature. The Court said the Cabinet’s “aid and advice” is “binding” on the LG and that the Assembly decisions have to be respected by the LG in all cases except when he makes a Presidential reference and even this power is not to be exercised in a routine manner. The Court stressed that although the LG has to be informed of all Cabinet decisions, the purpose of this communication is “not to obtain concurrence of the LG”.

Since then, peace had returned with Kejriwal presumably having thrashed out a working relationship with the Centre. But with the introduction of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in the Lok Sabha this week, it is clear that the truce was only temporary. The Bill makes it explicit that the LG’s opinion has to be obtained before the Government takes any executive action. Within a day, Kejriwal was back to protesting in Jantar Mantar. Why this move, especially after the Supreme Court had settled the matter?

Published on March 18, 2021

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