The Central government on Wednesday argued that Delhi, the nation’s capital and a sprawling metropolis, should be under its control. Delhi cannot be left to the “small mercies and smaller resources” of a State legislature, it reasoned.
The Centre justified the intent behind the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act or GNCTD Act of 2021. Parliament later also enacted the Transaction of Business of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act.
The Delhi government has contended in the Supreme Court that the amended sections of the GNCTD Act diminish the constitutionally guaranteed powers and functions of the elected legislative assembly.
A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana is hearing a plea by the Delhi government to quash the amended sections of the GNCTD Act and several Rules of the Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules, 1993.
Comparison to London
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, compared Delhi to London, saying the Capital was the country’s most visible and recognised destination. “There are issues concerning Delhi, which have an all India point of view. There should not be a state of perpetual friction between the Centre and the State. The important issues concerning the Capital should be exclusively legislated by Parliament,” he submitted.
“A metropolis of a large country like ours cannot depend on the small mercies and smaller resources of a State legislature,” he said in court.
Mr. Mehta urged the three-judge Bench to refer the case to a larger Bench.
More power to LG
The Delhi government has contended that the amendments in 2021 violate the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution. The Centre, through its amendments, has given more power to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) than the elected government of the people of Delhi, it argued.
In the petition, the Delhi government has challenged the constitutionality of Sections 21, 24, 33, 44 of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 and Rules 3, 6A, 10, 14, 15, 19, 22, 23, 25, 47A, 49, 52 and 57 of Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules, 1993.
It has stated that the amendments overturn the constitutionally stipulated balance between the Delhi government and the Union government.
In its petition, it has also argued that the amendments by the Centre were an attempt to treat the LG as the ‘default administering authority over the NCT [National Capital Territory] of Delhi’, by equating the position of the LG with that of the “government.”
The amendments, the Delhi government said, authorised the LG to withhold consent from bills that, in his judgment, may be “incidentally” outside the scope of the Assembly’s legislative powers.
They also, according to the petition, empowered the LG to interfere in the day-to-day administration of the Delhi government by introducing the requirement of obtaining the LG’s views before executing a decision of the Council of Ministers.
The Delhi government further sought to argue that the new laws encroach on the scope of the Assembly’s core legislative functions by interfering with the power of the House to frame its own rules of business or to hold the government to account which was a core function of any legislature.