GS II – Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure;
Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
In a landmark verdict on the power tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously held that Lieutenant Governor does not have independent decision making powers, and is bound to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
There has been constitutional tussle between Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and Elected Chief Minister of NCR regarding their respective jurisdictions in administration.
69th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1991 provided special status to the Union Territory of Delhi and redesignated it as National Capital Region with an administrator as Lieutenant Governor (LG). It created a legislative assembly and council of ministers.
It incorporated Article 239AA which clearly states that LG must act with aid and advice of Council of ministers except in the three matters of state list, that is, land, public order and police.
The tussle began when LG took control over the services and bureaucracy and obstructed normal functioning of government.
The Supreme Court in recent judgement stated that,
- LG has no independent decision-making power and cannot behave as an obstructionist when the Constitution gives primacy to the representative form of government.
- Except for the three issues, including land and law and order, over which Centre has exclusive power, Delhi government must be allowed to legislate and govern on other issues and LG cannot stall decisions mechanically.
- Both the LG and the CM are constitutional functionaries and must work harmoniously with mutual respect and none of them should feel superior to the other.
- LG being the administrative head of Delhi must be informed of all executive powers but he cannot stall all the decisions of council of ministers who have been elected to address aims and aspirations of the electorate.
- Delhi’s council of ministers headed by CM must communicate all decisions taken by it to the LG but it does not mean LG’s concurrence is required on every issue.
- Only in exceptional situations, the LG can refer the issue to President when he has legitimate and serious difference of opinion with the decision taken by the council of ministers headed by Delhi CM.
- The problem began when different parties came to power in Centre and Delhi. This lead to the confusion in interpretation of the article 239AA. After Supreme Court judgement the policy paralysis is expected to come to an end.
- The power tussle of current times is akin to those existed in times of dyarchy in the aftermath of Government of India Act 1919 with transferred and reserved subjects.
- Constitution is superior; hence both LG and CM must act according to the mandate of constitution and people.
- The words in judgement like ‘differences’ ‘valid grounds’ ‘exceptional situation’ are ambiguous and not defined by supreme court hence it may open new Pandora box.
- Delhi is national capital and it is the seat of central government with various important offices. All over the world, for national capitals the supremacy is with the central government.
Example : Washington DC model or London model
- Hence with regarding statehood, Chief Minister of Delhi must be given full authority akin to CMs of other states, in all matters except land, police and public order and Multiplicity of authorities must be avoided.
Delhi is one of the most populous cities in the world with burgeoning issues of urbanisation and population. Hence the LG’s choice of action must be dictated by reason, activated by good faith and tempered with caution to uphold the constitutional mandate and aspirations of electorate.