The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) moved a bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday where it proposed that “government” in the national capital territory of Delhi means the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. The Bill gives discretionary powers to the L-G of Delhi even in matters where the Legislative Assembly of Delhi is empowered to make laws.
The proposed legislation also seeks to ensure that the L-G is “necessarily granted an opportunity” to give her/his opinion before any decision taken by the Council of Ministers (or the Delhi Cabinet) is implemented.
Delhi is a Union Territory with a legislature and it came into being in 1991 under Article 239AA of the Constitution inserted by the Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991. As per the existing Act, the Legislative Assembly of Delhi has the power to make laws in all matters except public order, police and land.
The Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government has on many occasions challenged the BJP-ruled Central government regarding administrative matters in the Capital.
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday by Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy.
The Bill proposes to amend Sections 21, 24, 33 and 44 of the 1991 Act.
For structural clarity
The MHA’s statement on “objects and reasons” of the Bill stated that Section 44 of the 1991 Act deals with conduct of business and there is no structural mechanism for effective time-bound implementation of the said section.
“Further, there is no clarity as to what proposal or matters are required to be submitted to Lieutenant Governor before issuing order thereon,” the MHA’s statement said.
Section 44 of the 1991 Act says that all executive actions of the L-G, whether taken on the advice of his Ministers or otherwise shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the L-G.
Now it is proposed to insert the following clause in the Act: “Provided that before taking any executive action in pursuance of the decision of the Council of Ministers or a Minister, to exercise powers of Government, State Government, Appropriate Government, Lieutenant Governor, Administrator or Chief Commissioner, as the case may be, under any law in force in the Capital, the opinion of Lieutenant Governor in term of proviso to clause (4) of article 239AA of the Constitution shall be obtained on all such matters as may be specified, by a general or special order, by Lieutenant Governor.”
Article 239AA of the Constitution says the Council of Ministers will aid and advise the L-G in matters where the Legislative Assembly has the power to make laws except where the L-G can exercise discretion.
MHA’s statement said the constitution bench of the Supreme Court in a July 4, 2018 judgment and a division bench of the Supreme Court on February 14, 2019, has interpreted the provisions of article 239AA of the Constitution relating to the structure of governance in the NCT of Delhi.
MHA said, that in order to give effect to the interpretation made by the apex court, the Bill seeks to amend Section 21 of the Act and clarify the expression “Government”, which in the “context of legislations to be passed by the Legislative Assembly of Delhi” shall mean the L-G of the NCT of Delhi “consistent with the status of Delhi as a Union Territory to address the ambiguities in the interpretation of the legislative provisions.”
“It further seeks to ensure that the LG is necessarily granted an opportunity to exercise the power entrusted to him under proviso to clause (4) of article 239AA of the Constitution, in select category of cases and also to make rules in matters which incidentally encroach upon matters falling outside the preview of the Legislative Assembly. It also seeks to provide for rules made by the Legislative Assembly of Delhi to be consistent with the rules of the House of the People,” said MHA.
It added that the Bill will promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive, and further define the responsibilities of the elected government and the L-G, in line with the constitutional scheme of governance of Delhi, as interpreted by Supreme Court.
The 2019 verdict by the SC upheld as “legal” the MHA’s May 21 and July 23, 2015 notification authorising the L-G to exercise powers in relation to services and directing the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) police not to take cognisance of offences against Central government officials.
The Bill seeks to amend Section 33 of the Act that empowered the Delhi Assembly to make rules to conduct its business by inserting the clause that it shall not be inconsistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in House of People.
The amendment says that “Legislative Assembly shall not make any rule to enable itself or its Committees to consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the Capital or conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions” and any such rules made before the commencement of the Act shall be void.
The amendment to Section 24 says that the L-G will not assent any bill passed by the Delhi Assembly that “covers any of the matters which falls outside the purview of the powers conferred on the Legislative Assembly.”