In 2018, the Supreme Court had ruled that the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi had limited decision making power when it came to matters under the purview of the elected government. While matters under Article 239 were an exception, the five-judge Bench under Chief Justice Dipak Misra had held that the LG is bound by the "aid and advice of those who hold the public mandate.
But while this may have brought the frequent tussles between Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and the AAP government to an end, the elation appears to have been short lived.
Two years later, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government once again finds itself in an odd spot, with a law that Aam Aadmi Party leaders allege would make the Delhi government "dependent on LG office on every single file to get necessary approval from it before implementing". On Monday, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2021 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by MoS Home G Kishan Reddy.
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. This had come in to force at the time when Delhi came into being.
Simply put, the Amendment contends that that government in the national capital territory of Delhi 'means' the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, in context of any law to be made by the legislative assembly. As such, it has a provision that all executive action will be expressed to be taken in the name of the Lieutenant Governor. It makes it mandatory for the Delhi government to take the opinion of the LG before undertaking any executive action, and gives discretionary powers to the LG even in matters where the Legislative Assembly of Delhi is empowered to make laws. It also gives power to the LG to make rules in matters which falls outside the purview of the Legislative Assembly.
"When a bill has been passed by the legislative assembly, it shall be presented to the lieutenant governor and the lieutenant governor shall declare either that he assents to the bill or that he withholds assent therefrom or that he reserves the bill for the consideration of the president..." it said.
And while it is being touted as an effort to promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive, Opposition leaders are furious. In a statement issued by the Delhi government, Kejriwal alleged that that the BJP is trying to govern Delhi by gaining entry through the backdoor after losing the assembly elections and the recently held MCD bypolls.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged that if the bill is passed, only the lieutenant governor will be running the Delhi government, adding that the bill will render elections and decisions of an elected government for its people as "meaningless".
"Govt of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2021 effectively buries democracy in Delhi 10 fathoms deep. If passed elected Govt and Assembly would be mere petitioners in LG’s Durbar. LG would now rule Delhi more aggressively as MHA viceroy," tweeted Congress leader Manish Tewari.
(with inputs from agencies)