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A New Arrow In The Quiver

The tussle between the Centre and the States is never ending. Each party wants as many items as possible under its control. There has been transfer of subjects from state to the concurrent list, centre list remaining almost unchanged. This has been the nature of every party that gets the majority in the Lok Sabha election. The party at the centre tries to get hold of maximum control over the states and aims to assert its dominance. On the similar lines on Monday, the BJP dominant Lok Sabha passed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 reigniting the issue of distribution of power between the President nominated Lieutenant Governor(L-G) and the democratically elected government in Union Territory of Delhi.

The bill seeks to amend the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991.

The GNCTD Amendment Bill put forth majorly four amendments:
  1. Amendment to Section 21 of the parent act - The expression "Government" referred to in any law to be made by the Legislative Assembly shall mean the Lieutenant Governor
  2. Amendment to Section 24 � clause (d) added: incidentally covers any of the matters which falls outside the purview of the powers conferred on the Legislative Assembly.
  3. Amendment to Section 33 � prohibits the legislative assembly to make any rule to enable either itself or its committees to consider the matters of the day-to-day administration of the Capital or conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions. Additionally, this amendment has been given a retrospective effect
  4. Amendment to Section 44 � an opinion of L-G has to be sought on all matters before taking any executive action

The bill is an attempt to reduce the power of the democratically elected government whereas increasing the power of a nominated post i.e. L-G.

The issue had also been raised earlier before a Constitution bench in 2018 where the apex court held that L-G�s concurrence is not required on issues other than police, public order and land. Taking the shed of the Supreme Court verdict the elected government stopped sending files on executive matters to L-G before implementation of any decision and kept the L-G abreast of all administrative developments. But this is going to change with the passage of the bill which requires the opinion of L-G on all executive matters.

The bill raises certain apprehensions and ambiguities which would further create a rift between the President appointed L-G and elected government. The AAP government was in constant clash with the L-G prior to the Supreme Court�s verdict and fears that if the bill is passed and the amendments are made in the GNCTD act 1991 it would hamper the autonomy of the elected government which is already restricted.

The bill has given more power to the L-G by conferring upon him power in matters outside the purview of the Legislative assembly to not give assent to the bills and send them for President�s consideration. Also the bill prohibits the assembly to make laws on administrative matters or conduct inquires about administrative decisions.

These all provisions have the power to reduce the elected government ineffective and powerless. The condition of a democratically elected government will be similar to the condition of rulers under the British rule where the Rulers had become a puppet to the hands of the Raj.

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