Delhi Versus Centre Row

Prelims level : State Legislature Mains level : GS-II Parliament and State Legislatures - structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
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Why in News?

  • Delhi Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) Vinai Kumar Saxena has directed Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar to implement a 2016 order of the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA). 

What’s the issue?

  • The tussle between the Union and Delhi governments is over the limited question concerning ‘services’ or bureaucracy.

Delhi Government’s arguments:

  • The National Capital Territory government had compared its predicament without power over the ‘services’ like that of a king without a kingdom. 
  • For example, the government had to get the approval of the Lieutenant Governor to appoint a Health Secretary or a Commerce Secretary. This makes administration really difficult and undemocratic.
  • The government argues that without the power to control the transfers and postings of the officers, the Principle of “Collective Responsibility” will not be upheld.

What the Centre says?

  • The Centre had argued that Delhi, the nation’s capital and a sprawling metropolis, should be under its control.
  • It says, Delhi could not be left to the “small mercies and smaller resources” of a State legislature.

Supreme Court judgements so far:

2018 judgment:

  • The Constitution Bench had unanimously held that the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi was bound by the “aid and advice” of the government and both had to work harmoniously with each other.
  • There was no room for anarchy or absolutism in a democracy.
  • The 2018 judgment had not specifically dealt with the issue of ‘services’.

Unresolved Areas in the Judgement:

  • Overlapping Areas: Though the court has settled that LG is bound to act on the aid and advice except in respect of ‘Land’, ‘Public Order’ and the ‘Police’. However, Public Order is a very wide connotation, which subsequently leads to overlapping executive powers.
  • Still No Clarity on Article 239AA (4): The court did not very clearly delineate the issues in respect of which the LG can refer a decision taken by the Council of Ministers to the President in the event of a difference of opinion between the LG and the State government.
  • Open-Ended Terminologies: In the event of referring any matter to the President, the Court enunciated that LG must adhere to the constitutional principles of collaborative federalism, constitutional balance and the concept of constitutional governance. However, these terms are very wide and open- ended. They are subject to different interpretations.

February 2019 Judgment:

  • The Supreme Court gave a split opinion on the question of control over ‘services’ in the Capital.
  • Justice Bhushan had held that the Delhi government had no power over ‘services’.
  • Justice Sikri: Took the middle path; he concluded that files on the transfers and postings of officers in the rank of secretary, head of department and joint secretary could be directly submitted to the Lieutenant Governor.
  • As far as DANICS (Delhi Andamans Nicobar Islands Civil Service) cadre was concerned, the files could be processed through the Council of Ministers led by the Chief Minister to the Lieutenant Governor.
  • Again, in case of a difference of opinion, the Lieutenant Governor prevailed.

What are the latest demands by the Delhi Government now?

  • The Delhi government has also separately sought the quashing of amendments to the ‘Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Act’ and 13 Rules of the ‘Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules, 1993’.
  • It has contended that the amendments violate the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution and that the Centre, through these changes, has given more power to the Lieutenant Governor than the elected government of the people of Delhi.

How is Delhi administered?

  • Delhi is a Union Territory with a legislature and it came into being in 1991 under Article 239AA of the Constitution inserted by ‘the Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991.
  • As per the parent Act, the legislative assembly of Delhi has power to make laws in all matters except public order, police and land.
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