Delhi: Statehood and Beyond
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure
In News: In a landmark verdict on the power tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court today unanimously held that Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal does not have independent decision making powers, and is bound to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
Though seen as a Union Territory, Delhi was created as a separate category, with an elected Assembly with powers to enact laws in all matters falling under the State and Concurrent lists, with the exception of public order, police and land. This gave it a status higher than other UTs.
Rational of the SC: It would go against the basic structure of the Constitution; specifically the basic features of representative democracy and federalism.
What does it imply?
- There is no independent authority vested with the LG to take independent decisions as well as LG cannot even act as an “obstructionist”.
- All decisions of the Council of Ministers, who are elected representatives of the people of Delhi, must be communicated to the LG but that does not mean his concurrence is required.
Court has read the lieutenant governor’s power to differ with the Delhi government “on any matter” to mean a matter of exception and not a matter of course. The lieutenant governor cannot simply differ with the elected government and seek to have their way on areas of the Delhi government’s competence. Rather, in exceptional circumstances, the lieutenant governor, after consultation with the council of ministers to resolve any differences, can refer such a matter to the President in accordance with the proviso to clause (4) of Article 239-AA.
Why is there a demand for full statehood for Delhi?
Avoid multiplicity of authorities: Statehood will bring control of administration under one umbrella – the state government, led by the CM and his Council of Ministers.
Plan Delhi’s Development efficiently: Delhi government claims that its lack of control over public order, police and land hinders its ability to efficiently plan Delhi’s development.
Do away with confusion: Multiplicity of agencies makes it complex for citizens to hold the authorities accountable.
How will statehood transform Delhi?
- The Lieutenant Governor will be replaced by the Governor.
- If Delhi attains full statehood, Delhi police will come under the Government of Delhi, which means the Delhi government will be held accountable for the crime figures in the capital.
- Full statehood would ensure that all agencies presently under the Central government will become answerable to the Government of Delhi and indirectly to the people of Delhi.
- Statehood will allow the Government of Delhi to recruit its own cadre of officers to run the administration, just like how other states do.
Downside: Full statehood would impact the finances of Delhi. Infrastructural projects currently taken care of by the Centre will have to be financed by the state government. This could mean additional tax burden on the people of Delhi.
- Introduced by the 69th amendment to the Constitution
- Incorporated in the Constitution in the year 1992 – Suggested by Balakrishnan Committee’s report
- This Article creates a ‘special’ constitutional set up for Delhi
- LG is appointed by the President of India, on the advice of the Central government.
- The government of Delhi, led by the CM, enjoys the powers and privileges offered to all other States in India, but public order, police and land are out of its purview. It is the LG who exercises his powers in matters concerning these three departments (“in consultation with the Chief Minister, if it is so provided under any order issued by the President under Article 239 of the Constitution”).
- All decisions made by the Legislative Assembly require the Lt Governor’s approval. If there is a difference of opinion between the Assembly and the Lt Governor, the matter is referred to the President.
- Article 239AA (3) (b) of the Constitution lends significant power to the Centre. Since Delhi is the national capital, Parliament has powers to enact laws on any subject impacting Delhi’s governance.
- The Government of Delhi has no say in the recruitment and services of officials (bureaucrats). They report to the Lt. Governor.
The Union and its units should embrace a collaborative federal architecture for co-existence and inter-dependence.
The principle of collaborative federalism and constitutional balance needs to be upheld – the administrator as per rules has to be apprised of each decision taken by a minister or council of ministers and difference of opinion must meet the standards of constitutional trust and morality,.
“The element of trust is an imperative between constitutional functionaries” so that their governments “can work in accordance with constitutional norms”.
Connecting the Dots:
- Discuss the essentials of the 69th Constitutional Amendment Act and anomalies, if any that have led to recent reported conflicts between the elected representatives and the institution of the Lieutenant Governor in the administration of Delhi. Do you think that this will give rise to a new trend in the functioning of the Indian federal politics? (CSE Mains-2016)