Delhi: Political history
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
The water tanker purchase of Rs 400-cr/ 2012
Case Dates Back To 2012; FIR By ACB In 2016 Named Both Dikshit & AAP Govts
The alleged water tanker procurement scam dates back to 2012 when Delhi Jal Board, with the then CM, Sheila Dikshit, as its chairperson, awarded tenders for hiring 385 stainless steel tankers from private companies.
However, the FIR filed by Anti-Corrpution Branch (ACB) in June 2016 mentions both the Dikshit regime as well as the Kejriwal-led AAP government on the basis of two complaints.
On June 19, 2015, the AAP government set up a fact-finding committee on the tanker deal which, in its report submitted in August, alleged a scam of Rs 400 crore. The committee found that a consultant had been appointed arbitrarily on nomination basis, causing a loss of Rs 36.5 crore to the exchequer. Though the tender of a company was rejected on the ground that it was the only application, work was awarded later to another company on the basis of a single tender.The committee said the work was given at higher rates compared to the rates quoted by another firm at Rs 323.9 crore.
After the report was submitted, the then DJB chairperson, Mishra, wrote to CM Kejriwal, asking for an FIR to be lodged against those involved in the scam.
On June 16, 2016, the then LG, Najeeb Jung, forwarded the report to ACB for appropriate action after leader of opposition Vijender Gupta wrote to him deman ding a probe against Kejriwal as well for not scrapping the contract. Soon, ACB of the Delhi government registered the FIR on the basis of Mishra's report as well as the complaint given by Gupta.
The FIR was registered under Section 13 (1D) -misuse of power -of Prevention of Corruption Act, along with two sections of IPC-Sections 120B and 409. While IPC 120B refers to hatching a criminal conspiracy , Section 409 deals with criminal breach of trust by a public servant.
Thereafter, ACB questioned Mishra on the report submitted by him. In July 2016, it sent a notice to Dikshit. ACB also questioned the members of the fact-finding committee to understand how they conducted the inquiry and arrived at the figure as the loss of revenue due to the alleged scam.
In August, it finally examined Dikshit. A four-member team went to her home and handed her a list of 18 questions for written replies.
Chief Ministers’ offices, residences
Kejriwal’s ‘secret room’
Mishra, in a tweet, said that room in which the incident took place doesn't have any CCTV cameras and is often used by Kejriwal to conduct "secret deals"
A Delhi Police team was sent to Kejriwal's residence for collecting evidence related to an alleged assault on chief secretary Anshu Prakash
The room in which the alleged assault on Delhi chief secretary by Aam Aadmi Party MLAs took place doesn't have any CCTV camera, claimed rebel MLA of the party Kapil Mishra as Delhi Police conducted raids at chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence.
As Delhi Police conducted search operation at the residence of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to collect evidence on the 'assault' on chief secretary, Anshu Prakash, rebel AAP MLA, Mishra, in a tweet, said that room in which the incident took place doesn't have any CCTV cameras and is often used by Kejriwal to conduct "secret deals".
"Sources - The room in which chief secretary was assaulted, it can be calls "Kejriwal's cave". There is no camera, CCTV. Kejriwal conducts most of his "secret deals" in this room. A very few people are allowed to enter this room," he tweeted.
A Delhi Police team was sent to Kejriwal's residence in the Civil Lines area for collecting evidence related to an alleged assault on chief secretary Anshu Prakash.
"A police team has been sent to the chief minister's residence for collecting all evidence, including CCTV footage, in connection with the alleged assault on the Delhi Chief Secretary," Additional DCP, North Delhi, Harinder Singh said.
According to Delhi government spokesperson Arunodya Prakash, 60-70 policemen entered the chief minister's residence.
"CM house taken over by police. Huge number of police force enters CM house without any intimation. Police Raj kills democracy in Delhi. Police spread all over inside CM house. If this what they can to do an elected CM, think what they can with poor people!!!" Prakash wrote on Twitter.
2013-2017: how top 3 parties fared
How top three parties fared, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi
Voters, by age and gender, 2017, ’18
Voters in Delhi, by age and gender, 2017-18
Voting patterns in Delhi, 2013-19
Winter session longest in history
The Times of India, Dec 06 2015
2015 winter session longest in history
The Delhi Assembly's winter session that concluded on Friday was the longest in the history of the legislature here in which 11 sittings of the house were held and business conducted for 43.30 hours against the scheduled 38.30 hours, speaker Ram Niwas Goel said. The house in session saw the introduction and passage of 15 Bills, including the “historic“ Janlokpal Bill. A total of 253 question notices were rece ived while 244 notices for special mention and 42 notices for short duration discussions were also received during the sittings, Goel said.
Issues like increasing pollution in Delhi and shortage of night shelters were also raised through 42 calling attention motions in the house.
Twenty-one notices were received for private members' resolutions and two days were earmarked for taking up of the same.
AAP’s fortunes and the OOP case
2015-2018, AAP’s changing fortunes and the parliamentary secretaries, OOP case
The AAP government came to power with a formidable majority — 67 out of 70. The ship is afloat with 66 now, but the story has changed a lot since February 2015. A few have turned rebels, a few have been suspended and two constituencies have witnessed bypolls. Now, with 20 MLAs staring at disqualification in the office-of-profit case, AAP faces a situation in which byelections may turn into a referendum on its performance. The party will be tested on its “pro-poor” agenda, its subsidy-driven governance and its core focus areas of education and health. Also with the Supreme Court verdict on powers of Centre and state due in February, the AAP story may see more twists and turns in public glare.
In the two bypolls in 2017, AAP lost Rajouri Garden and won Bawana. The seats had fallen vacant when Rajouri Garden MLA Jarnail Singh was made to resign to enable him to fight in the Punjab elections and Bawana MLA Ved Prakash quit to join the BJP.
Given the simple majority of 36 needed in a house of 70, the AAP government is under no threat of a collapse even if, for argument’s sake, it loses all 20 seats. However, with its formidable majority eroded, AAP could face the danger of not only losing its edge politically but also its moral posturing as a party with a difference. In any such eventuality, the Opposition will spring to life as it is at present a miniscule four of the BJP.
Among the 46 AAP MLAs who will remain, if the disqualification of 20 comes through, there are quite a few who have rocked the boat and brought under scrutiny AAP’s ideology of fighting corruption and occupying the high moral ground.
They may technically be AAP MLAs, but the party has rebels like Kapil Mishra (Karawal Nagar) and Devendra Sehrawat (Bijwasan). While Sehrawat took on the ruling party in 2016, Mishra embarrassed the party and shocked the city with his allegations of corruption, particularly targeting Arvind Kejriwal and his minister, Satyendra Jain. AAP was quick to suspend the two from the party but their membership as MLAs was not cancelled.
There are others like Jitender Singh Tomar (Tri Nagar), Asim Ahmed Khan (Matia Mahal) and Sandeep Kumar (Sultanpuri) who continue as MLAs and AAP members but carry the tag of “sacked ministers.” All three were unceremoniously ousted by the ruling dispensation. Timarpur MLA Pankaj Pushkar has been seen as an AAP MLA once very critical of AAP’s policies and is considered close to Swaraj Abhiyan founder Yogendra Yadav. His hot-and-cold equation makes him stand out as a man the party chooses to address with caution.
While both Congress and BJP are preparing to tear into AAP over the office-ofprofit issue, the ruling party says it will fight back. Whatever the outcome, AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj has threatened to launch a public campaign to highlight case-wise the appointment of parliamentary secretaries across different states by both BJP and Congress. “We will highlight the case of the Congress government in Delhi too where a parliamentary secretary to the CM was appointed by Sheila Dikshit,” he added.
“We will go out to the public and show them documents and make videos to explain the issue of office of profit and the notification on the apppointment of these parliamentary secretaries. They got no financial benefits, no perks. Yes, the order did say that that they use an official vehicle for work. Is that reason enough for disqualificaiton when these people got no benefits,” Bhardwaj asked.
It is learnt that the Delhi government has been giving a lot of emphasis on developmental work in these 20 assembly constituencies, sources in AAP said. However, the party agrees that garnering financial support to fight a fresh round of elections will be a challenge.
2015-Feb 2018: AAP govt. vs the officers
2015-Feb 2018: AAP govt. vs the officers
Uneasy relations between the AAP and officers
Once a sought-after posting for babus of the Union territory cadre of the Indian Administrative Service (AGMUT), Delhi is now associated with a bitter tug-ofwar between the Aam Aadmi Party government and the bureaucracy. As things stand today, a transfer to Goa or Mizoram is no longer seen as a punishment and a move to the Centre is a relief rather than a promotion.
The overtly political centre-state tussle has come to define the dynamics of governance in the city. In a statement on Wednesday, the IAS, DANICS and DASS associations said that the alleged attack on the chief secretary amounted to a “functional crisis and breakdown of governance”. The bodies added, “This is the culmination of a series of incidents of officers being subjected to verbal abuse and intimidation by political authorities.”
Indeed, over three years the relations between the bureaucrats and political executive have remained constantly turbulent. Last year, there was a very public spat with then chief secretary MM Kutty, who must have been pleased to move to the Union finance ministry after a year in Delhi. PWD and vigilance secretary Ashwini Kumar also found himself in the firing line over desilting of drains, before being sent to Puducherry as chief secretary.
This year, Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board CEO Shurbir Singh has been in the eye of a storm over a bank-related case being scrutinised by a committee of the Delhi Assembly. Jayadev Sarangi, secretary in charge of information and publicity in Delhi government, has similarly found himself being hauled up for procedures involved in the issuing of advertisements. There also is Keshav Chandra, who was drawn into a controversy after expressing dissent as CEO of Delhi Jal Board and is now in the Union ministry of commerce.
The list of those who were once in Delhi’s key departments but have since been posted in central ministries has grown longer since 2015, when the first tussle broke out after the then lieutenant governor appointed IAS officer Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary. She was accused of not following the AAP government’s orders and of toeing the centre’s line in delaying files. Her colleagues, like Dharampal, who once held charge of the home department, Chetan Sanghi, whose portfolios including vigilance and urban development, and Chandrakar Bharti, who was in the health and environment departments, too had torrid relationships with the state government.
The bone of contention has been the “rule book”. In most of these cases, the government has decried the officers not following its directions. Delhi high court’s judgment of August 5, 2016 only gave the political executive the reason to complain, “The LG appoints the bureaucrats, we have no say and thus they do not follow our directions.”
What started in 2015 as an odd fight was firmly established as an established feature of Delhi’s governance in 2017. In between, 2016 began on a sour note with the CM reacting strongly to the protest leave availed of by DANICS and IAS officers in December 2015 and ended with the associations of bureaucrats belonging to the AGMUT cadre of IAS and DANICS adopting a resolution against “injustices of any kind by the political executive of the Delhi government meted out to the officers of the state government in discharge of their duties.”
While 2017 witnessed a more public wrangling between the babus and the government, 2018 has begun on a new low that threatens to adversely impact governance in the city.
Office of profit issue
The AAP government was elected in February 2015 with a brute majority of 67 seats in an assembly of 70. BJP had just three MLAs while Congress had none.
Kejriwal government dealt with its problem of plenty by accommodating MLAs as parliamentary secretaries without first shielding them from the office of profit law.
In June 2015, the Delhi government had moved the amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997. It sought to exempt the parliamentary secretaries from the office-of profit disqualification provisions retrospectively , so that “necessary benefits and perks could be given to them to enable them to execute their duties“. These parliamentary secretaries to ministers don't figure on the list of posts exempted from the office-ofprofit rule as of now. The appointments have been questioned repeatedly .
The assembly had passed the Bill without the prior approval of the LG or the Centre
Section 15 of the government of NCT of Delhi Act, 1991 says a person shall not remain an MLA if he or she holds any office of profit under the Centre or government of a state or UT.
The legislator can escape disqualification only if the office is declared -by law made by Parliament, state legisla ture or UT -as a post that does not attract loss of membership. The fate of the MLAs will now be decided by the Election Commission that is considering a petition seeking their disqualification. Elaborating on the Presi dent's grounds for rejec tion of the bill, a home ministry official said the law was clear that what constitutes an “office of profit“ and what does not must be pre-defined.“Applying exemptions with retrospective effect is unconstitutional,“ the official said. The view in official circles is that with the President rejecting the bill, the post of parliamen tary secretary is clearly an `office of profit' and the disqualification of the AAP MLAs is all but a foregone conclusion.
President Pranab Mukherjee in June 2016 rejected the bill passed by the Delhi assembly seeking to exempt 21 AAP MLAs appointed as parliamentary secretaries from the purview of `office of profit' criteria.
The rejection of the bill will not affect the ongoing proceedings in the EC on a petition filed by lawyer Prashant Patel. “Just as court cases go on independent of each other, the EC will continue to hear the petition...the end result, however, may well be the same, that is, disqualification of the 21 MLAs,“ said an official.
The President's refusal to give assent for bringing an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997 has cast a shadow on the future of the 21 parliamentary secretaries appointed by the Aam Aadmi Party government through an administrative order last year. The Election Commission of India has, meanwhile, been looking into the office of profit allegation under a petition.
AAP was holding an emergency meeting on Monday night to discuss the crisis, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the chair. The govenrment's restlessnes was evident as the CM took to twitter to mount his defence.He yet again chose to hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that “Modi does not respect democracy . He is only scared of AAP“. In a series of tweets, he said: “We did not give a single paisa to any MLA, neither car nor bungalow. All MLAs were working for free. Modiji says sit at home, don't do any work.“ He added: “One MLA was put in charge of power, one of water and another of hospitals and one MLA of schools. Modiji says neither will I work, nor will I let anyo ne work.“
According to constitutional experts, the President's refusal has moved the 21 MLAs one step closer to certain disqualification. The EC has alredy issued these MLAs a show-cause notice on the same ground earlier, and Monday's decision by the President denies the exemption Kejriwal wanted to give them for shielding them from disqualification under Office of Profit rules.
Legal experts said the role of EC is now largely academic and procedural since the head of state has in a way settled the issue. Former solicitor general Mohan Parasaran told TOI that once the “President has decided not to accord his assent, the complaint before EC doesn't survive. It remains an academic discussion since the President has decided on a higher plane.“
The former secretary general of Lok Sabha, Subhash C Kashyap, agreed. “The legal position is that having occupied an office of profit, these 21 MLAs stand disqualified. Disqualification has to be done by President in consultation with EC under Article 192.“
An AAP government spokesperson, however, claimed that this was not the end of the road as the amendment to the legislation was aimed at bringing the parliamentary secretaries under the category exempted from disqualification on grounds of office of profit so that they could be given some “essential perks“ which they were not getting now. As far as the petition in EC was concerned, the spokesperson argued that this was a different matter as it was not about the legislation but on the question of whether these MLAs come under the purview of the “office of profit“. He added: “We have been arguing repeatedly that they do not come under the office of profit as they don't get any financial benefits.“
2016: LG-CM showdown kept city on tenterhooks
When LG-CM showdown kept city on tenterhooks
Jung's Exit Marks New Start, But Baijal May Not Let Govt Breathe Easy Either
Customary competition for power between the state and central governments is particularly complex in the case of Delhi because of various interpretations of the statutes regarding the governance of the capital. While chief ministers of the semi-state and the lieutenant governor, the constitutional authority , have managed not to step on each other's toes too often in the past, the wrangling between the two offices has been vexatious in the recent past. His never-ending quarrels with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal over administrative prerogatives may in fact have hastened the decision of Najeeb Jung not to see out 2016 as Delhi's LG.
In the war over the interpretation of the laws on Delhi's governance, several state government orders were struck down as being ultra vires by Jung. The LG's office claimed a constitutional position as the final arbiter on appointments and posting of state officials in Delhi, a view that seemed to have been confirmed by Delhi high court when it reserved administrative authority for the LG on August 4. The court ruling prompted Jung to call for files from all government departments for a review by a committee he appointed, consisting of former CAG VK Shunglu, former CEC N Gopalaswami and former CVC Pradeep Kumar. The incoming LG will now have to deal with the several legal irregularities that the panel is believed to have listed in its report.
During all this, AAP adopted the political strategy of describing itself as the victim of the politics of the PM and BJP. This will be tested in the assembly elections in Goa, Punjab and Gujarat in 2017. On home turf too, the game plan will be subjected to electoral assessment in the municipal elections in March or April next year.
After a massive election victory in 2015, the AAP government chose to set aside certain procedural norms, like having the LG clear policies or legislative bills before enactment. When Jung pointed out the legal lapses in such a trend, AAP promptly accused the LG of being the centre's agent, acting on its behalf to block Delhi's development. Every time it happened, the party pitted itself as an elected government being derailed by an appointed authority .
Among the issues over which the government had the bitterest dispute was control of the bureaucracy . The year began with the mass protest leave by DANICS and IAS officers on December 31, 2015, and ended with bureaucrats belonging to the AGMUT cadre of IAS and DANICS officially adopting a resolution against “injustices of any kind by the political executive of the Delhi government meted out to the officers of the state government in discharge of their duties“. In between, there were numerous run-ins over postings and transfers.
Centre sacks 9 advisers to Kejriwal govt
An Attempt By BJP To Undermine Reforms Undertaken By Govt: Sisodia
Nine advisers to the Arvind Kejriwal government were sacked on Tuesday following a directive of the Union home ministry. This sparked a fresh round of confrontation between the AAP government and the Centre.
The development has robbed the Kejriwal government of all its advisers except two of CM Kejriwal. Deputy CM Manish Sisodia tore into PM Narendra Modi, alleging that it was an attempt by the BJP-led Centre to undermine the reforms undertaken by the AAP government to improve the standard of education in Delhi government schools.
Four of the nine had already quit due to different reasons and only five were still occupying the posts. AAP had appointed them as domain experts after coming to power in 2015. The most prominent among the nine is Atishi Marlena, an Oxford University alumna who is credited with leading the educational reforms of the government for a salary of Re 1 per month, and Raghav Chadha, who was appointed adviser to Sisodia for around three months for a salary of Re 1. Chadha had quit in March 2016.
The MHA said these posts were “not on the list of posts approved for the ministers and chief minister of Delhi”. “No prior required approval of the central government has been taken for the creation of these posts,” said the order from the general administration department.
The order has clarified that since in Delhi services is a subject reserved for the central government, the posts created by the Delhi cabinet are invalid. There is, however, no possibility of recovering the salaries given to these advisers.
A services department release said that all consequential action under law on these “illegal” appointments could also be taken.
Sources in the government said that the posts already existed in the previous government and some appointments were made with prior approval from the LG’s office. For other appointments, the AAP government had sent the files for ex-facto approval to LG.
Justifying the appointments, Sisodia said, “The BJP-ruled MP government appoints babas, but we appoint an Oxford graduate for Re 1 per month and they (BJP) do not allow them to work. The appointments were made against pre-existing coter minus posts.”
The government called it a “conspiracy to remove Marlena”. Without her, the pace of reforms in education would slow down, the government fears. “The minister has the right to appoint co-terminus aides. Nine people were sacked to show that one person is not being targeted,” said an AAP government source.
“Their main target is Marlena and the Centre thinks it can stop the ongoing reforms in education. Why is the Modi government scared of her work? The improvement in the fields of education has made Modi uncomfortable,” said Sisodia.
AAP spokesperson Chadha, however, alleged that the decision to sack the advisers was taken after the Centre’s attempts to stop the reforms of the AAP government by pitting the bureaucrats against the elected government failed. “It is also an impressive diversionary tactic by the home ministry at the behest of BJP to divert attention from the spate of rapes, cash crunch etc,” Chadha added.
Nov: Health emergency as pollution hits ‘severe+’ zone
As pollution levels reached apocalyptic levels with nearly 44% of the capital’s PM2.5 load coming from stubble burning emissions in the neighbouring states, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority declared a public health emergency in Delhi-NCR and banned all construction activities till November 5.
The Delhi government announced shutting down of schools during the same period. It also decided to stagger working hours of its offices during the implementation of the 12-day odd-even scheme, from November 4.
EPCA chairman Bhure Lal, who wrote to the four NCR states as the pollution levels in the region entered the season’s worst in ‘severe plus’ category, also banned bursting of crackers during the entire winter season.
Delhi’s air quality index (AQI), according to CPCB, was at 484 — the highest this season. The previous high in 2019 was on January 3 when the AQI stood at 444. On November 9, 2017, the index touched 486, while on November 6, 2016, it had recorded an all-time high of 497.
In terms of NCR, Noida had the worst air quality in the entire country with an AQI of 500, followed by Ghaziabad and Greater Noida, both at 496, Faridabad at 479 and Gurgaon at 469.
LG-CM face-off on the NE Riots
In an escalation of the latest confrontation between lieutenant governor Anil Baijal and the Delhi government, a cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal rejected Delhi Police’s panel of lawyers for northeast Delhi riot cases in both the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court. It asked the home department to prepare a panel of the best lawyers of the country to represent the state government in the cases related to the riots and anti-CAA protests. The government said the decision was taken to ensure that those guilty of causing communal violence in Delhi get exemplary punishment without the innocent being harassed or punished. A cabinet note, accessed by TOI, said, “The courts have already raised serious questions on fairness of the investigations done by Delhi Police in the riot cases. In such a situation, a free and fair trial of these cases would not be possible by a panel of lawyers selected by Delhi Police itself.” It said that it is the basic principle of criminal jurisprudence that investigations should be completely independent of prosecution.
‘Govt lawyers must be independent of police’
Police should not be allowed to decide the lawyers in any case. “In order to ensure that all facts are presented before the courts, it is extremely critical that the government advocates are independent of the police. Therefore, the panel suggested by Delhi Police should be rejected,” said the cabinet note.
A face-off between the LG and the elected government over this issue has been on for the past few months. Delhi Police’s proposal to appoint six senior lawyers as special public prosecutors is at the centre of this row. Delhi Police had on July 10 sent a proposal to the AAP government to appoint this team — which included Tushar Mehta and Aman Lekhi — to represent the prosecution in the high court in 85 cases of communal riots and anti-CAA protests. “The police panel was prepared at the behest of the central government. The LG wants the Delhi government to appoint lawyers selected by the central government,” said a source.
No reaction was available from the LG’s office despite TOI reaching out to officials.
The state government has called the LG’s proposals repeatedly expressing a difference of opinion on the matter of deciding lawyers unfortunate. “The Constitution bench of the Supreme Court in its July 4, 2018 order had stated that the LG should use his special powers in the ‘rarest of rare cases’. This matter certainly cannot qualify as one,” a government official pointed out.
Delhi has a complex administrative set-up due to its special status under the Constitution. Delhi Police comes under the LG while prosecution is under the Kejriwal government. Approval of the elected government is needed for appointing the lawyers’ panel. Manish Sisodia, officiating as home minister when Satyendar Jain was unwell, had earlier rejected police’s proposal saying that Delhi government’s standing counsel, Rahul Mehra, and his team were "capable" of representing the state and a separate appointment by the Centre was not required.
In the middle of this month, the LG invoked his special powers to summon the file from the home minister’s office. He disagreed with the views of the elected government at a recent meeting with the home minister and wrote a letter to Kejriwal, asking him to take a decision on the matter within a week. The Constitution empowers the LG to refer the matter to the President in case of a difference of opinion.
The first round of confrontation over the appointment of public prosecutors between the LG and the elected government was witnessed in May over the appointment of 11 public prosecutors proposed by Delhi Police to represent the state in the lower courts. The state government had contrary views and it led to a disagreement with the LG. A source said that after the Delhi government pointed out “technical irregularities and mala fide intention” in the proposal, the LG asked Delhi Police to nominate a new team of lawyers. “When the Delhi cabinet rejected the second proposal, the LG, using powers vested under Article 239AA (4) of the Constitution, invoked the provision of 'difference of opinion' and referred the matter to the President while allowing Delhi Police to go ahead with its team of public prosecutors in the lower courts,” a source said.
At least 53 people were killed and over 250 injured in the violence which had followed the anti-CAA protests. Around 1,300 people were arrested and over 750 FIRs were registered by Delhi Police on the three days of mayhem in the capital.
The Delhi Bill
Delhi braces for itself for another phase of confrontation as Centre introduces bill to give more power to Lieutenant-Governor
What is the Delhi Bill?
The Centre has introduced The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2021 in the Lok Sabha. This bill seeks to give more powers to the Lieutenant-Governor by specifying that any decision of the state cabinet or government would need the LG’s “opinion” before implementation.
The proposed amendment says, "Provided that before taking any executive action in pursuance of the decision of the council of ministers or a minister, to exercise powers of government, state government, appropriate government, lieutenant-governor, administrator or chief commissioner, as the case may be, under any law in force in the capital, the opinion of the lieutenant-governor in term of proviso to clause (4) of Article 239AA of the Constitution shall be obtained on all such matters as may be specified, by a general or special order, by the lieutenant governor." (Article 239AA spells out the special status granted to Delhi as the National Capital.)
In another proposal, the Centre has said that the LG shall not give assent to a bill passed by the assembly on any matter which falls outside the purview of the powers conferred on the legislative assembly and he can reserve it for the consideration of the President.
WHAT THE BILL PROPOSES
- Govt must obtain ‘opinion’ of LG before implementing any decision, including ones taken by council of ministers
-‘Government’, referred to in any law to be made by assembly, shall mean LG
- LG can specify all matters on which his ‘opinion’ is to be sought
- Assembly or any of its committee can’t conduct inquiries on administrative decisions and all rules made in contravention shall be void
The amendment bill also seeks to ensure that the business in the assembly is run in accordance with Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in House of People (Lok Sabha). This provision will put an end to any scope for criticising any leader or person who is not present or isn’t a member of the house.
Another major provision is that the assembly shall not make any rule to enable itself or its committees to consider the matters of day-to-day administration or to conduct inquiries in relation to any administrative decision. This will provide a shield to officers who often face the fear of being summoned to the assembly or its committees for administrative decisions, a source said. Interestingly, the proposed amendment also specifies that any rule made in contravention of this provision before commencement of the amended Act of 2021 shall be void.
Is this in accordance with the Constitution?
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of Delhi has condemned the bill, calling it “unconstitutional and undemocratic”. The chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has tweeted that: "The Bill says - 1. For Delhi, 'Government' will mean LG, then what will the elected government do? 2. All files will go to LG. This is against 04.07.2018 Constitution Bench judgment which said that files will not be sent to LG, elected government will take all decisions and send copy of decision to LG."
The deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia, also condemned the bill. "The BJP-led central government has taken an unconstitutional and undemocratic decision to curtail the powers of Delhi’s elected government. This bill will render elections and decisions of an elected government for its people meaningless. It would just be LG of Delhi, backed by Union government, taking decisions for the people which is highly undemocratic and against all ideals of the Constitution," he said.
Who is opposing this and why?
The AAP government, of course, is up in arms against the bill. The party believes that the passage of the Bill will take the capital back to the days when the Centre versus Delhi government confrontation marred governance in Delhi.
AAP believes that the Bill is designed to curtail the power of the elected government and vest more power in the LG, who represents the central government. The Delhi government has called the bill “anti-constitutional, antidemocratic and dangerous”. It’s not just AAP. The Delhi unit of Congress has opposed the introduction of the bill, saying this would usurp power from the people of Delhi.
Former MLA Anil Bhardwaj of the Congress, said that the Bill would not only considerably dilute the powers of an elected Delhi government, which already does not have authority over land and police, but would also directly assault the powers of the citizens of Delhi to choose a government through the democratic process of elections. Bharadwaj alleged that if the Bill was enacted, BJP would resort to backseat driving through the LG, regardless of the party that formed the government.
Does the LG in Delhi have the same power as state governors?
The Supreme Court stated in 2017 that the Delhi LG had greater power than a state governor. State governors are bound by the aid and advice of the elected council of ministers; the LG’s discretionary powers are more than those of a state governor. Also, in Delhi’s case, land, police, and public order fall under the domain of the central government, which the LG represents. That automatically gives the LG a greater say in the functioning of the territory.
If the LG is already powerful, why has the Centre introduced this bill?
The state government under the elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has not had a good relationship with successive LGs. The party has been fighting for full statehood for Delhi, something that the centre is against. The result has been a batch of petitions filed in the courts. In February 2019, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the centre (and LG) in four of the six points that came up before it.
The centre claims that this bill is its attempt to clarify “ambiguities” following two judgments by the Supreme Court. The bill, say sources, is aimed at ending the lack of clarity on what proposals or matters are required to be submitted to the LG before issuing orders. However, it looks like it has restarted the power tussle that many thought was laid to rest with the 2019 ruling.
DANICS: Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (Civil) Services
Is the AAP government the first to have such a problem with the LG and Centre?
The AAP and the BJP started out with ideological differences, and those seem to have hardened over the years. Neither party seems to want to even attempt a compromise, and both are determined to not let the other gain the upper hand. Governance has taken a beating, and salaries and pensions have not been paid.
Due to the power tussle, work had been delayed. These included the installation of CCTV cameras, opening of mohalla clinics, doorstep delivery of services, appointments of public prosecutors, doorstep delivery of ration and recruitment of teachers.
Successive governments in Delhi — before 2015 — have had cordial or at least good working relationships with the centre, even if both were from opposing parties. A case in point is Delhi’s former CM, Sheila Dikshit, who headed a Congress government in Delhi and had amicable relations with the BJP government at the centre.
What happens now?
The AAP plans to fight the bill; Sisodia said the party would explore all options. The party is quite used to taking this issue to court, so it’s possible that this will join an existing list of pleas by AAP against the LG and the centre.