Legislation to amend 1991 Act may provide more discretionary powers for the L-G
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is likely to introduce a legislation in the ongoing Parliament session to amend a 1991 Act pertaining to the powers and function of the Delhi government and the Lieutenant Governor.
The National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to “bring ease in implementation of certain provisions of the Act” is among more than 20 Bills proposed to be introduced in this Parliament session.
The Bill is yet to get the Cabinet’s nod and it was not taken for consideration by the Union Cabinet that met on Tuesday.
A Home Ministry spokesperson did not respond to requests regarding the provisions of the Bill.
Parliament proceedings Sept. 15 updates
According to a source, the Bill proposes to clearly spell out the functions of the Council of Ministers and the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) by giving more discretionary powers to the L-G.
According to changes proposed in the new Act, the L-G could act in his discretion in any matter that is beyond the purview of the powers of the Legislative Assembly of Delhi in matters related to the All India (Civil) Services and the Anti Corruption Branch. It will also give more teeth to the L-G, and the validity of any decision taken as per such discretion shall not be questioned.
The Aam Aadmi Party-led (AAP) Delhi government is often at loggerheads with the Centre regarding administrative matters in Delhi.
A clutch of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court against a 2015 notification by the MHA, which said that the Delhi government had no powers in Services-related matters and the Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) could not register cases against any employee, officer or functionary of the Central government.
The Union Territory of Delhi with a Legislative Assembly came into being in 1991 under Article 239AA of the Constitution inserted by ‘the Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991’. It said that the UT of Delhi shall be called the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and the administrator thereof appointed under Article 239 shall be designated as the Lieutenant-Governor. According to the existing Act, the Legislative Assembly of Delhi has the power to make laws in all matters except public order, police, and land.
The apex court is still examining the Services matter. In 2018, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had unanimously held that the L-G was bound by the “aid and advice” of the Delhi government and both had to work harmoniously with each other.
Recently, the Delhi government and L-G Anil Baijal sparred over the appointment of Public Prosecutors in the Delhi riots cases and the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 protests. The panel of lawyers selected by the Delhi government to assist the Delhi Police was overturned by the L-G’s office.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office said in a statement that under the Constitution, the L-G of Delhi had special powers to intervene and overturn any decision of the elected government of Delhi, but the Supreme Court had said that the L-G could exercise this right only in the “rarest of rare cases”. “Otherwise, it is against the spirit of democracy. Appointment of a panel of lawyers does not fall into any rare category and it is a normal procedure. For this reason, the Delhi government is fully empowered to appoint lawyers,” it had said.
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