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ANALYSIS OF THE GNCTD (AMENDMENT) ACT,2021
Author: Rohit, II year of B.A.LLB (Hons.) from Institute of Law,University, Kurukshetra
The GNCTD Act or the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act was recently amended by the Parliament of India during its March session. The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on 15 March, 2021 which amends the GNCTD Act, 1991. The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on 22 March and then passed in Rajya Sabha on 24 March. Before passing of the bill in Rajya Sabha, the Congress, Aam-Aadmi Party and other opposition parties walked out by registering their protest against this alleged unconstitutional bill.
The Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi Act was passed by the Parliament in 1991. By the 69th amendment in the Constitution of India, the Government of Delhi was given a legislative assembly and made responsible. Delhi was given a special constitutional status by being a Union Territory and having a legislative assembly like other states. The Lieutenant-Governor, who is appointed by the president, was labelled as its administrator. The Government of Delhi could legislate on the matters present in the State list as well as the concurrent list but not related to- land, police and public order. If there is any conflict between the Lieutenant-Governor (LG) and the elected government, then according to the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, the President would have his say. Until then, the LG can make any decision which he/shereckons to be appropriate.
In 2014, a coalition government of BJP and AAP was formed in Delhi with Arvind Kejriwal as the chief minister. The Kejriwal government broke the alliance and the government just lasted for 49 days. After this in 2015, elections took place in Delhi again for legislative assembly. This time Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP won 67 seats out of an assembly of 70 members and completely outshined the National parties. From there, the differences between the central and state government became evident. When the Government of Delhi was to pass an order or a bill and the Lieutenant-Governor objected, then the decision was vested in the hands of the President. The Delhi government was not able to make decisions and the LG made decisions until President’s remarks. The Chief Minister and the council of ministers protested on roads by giving Dharnas and then it was brought to the Supreme Court’s notice. In Government of NCT of Delhi vs. Union of India and Another in 2018, the Supreme Court held that the government is not under obligation to seek any concurrence from the LG on its decision but the decision should be communicated to him/her. In the verdict, it was also said that any differences between them should be resolved keeping in mind the constitutional primacy of representative government and cooperative federalism.
Key Changes to the Act
The Amendments in the Section 21, 24, 33, 44 of the Act, the “Government” in the GNCTD Act will be recognised as the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi. It gives discretionary power to the LG in matters where the Legislative Assembly of Delhi is capable to design laws. The amended Act also makes it compulsory for the Government of NCT of Delhi to take the opinion of the LG before taking any executive action and also provides such power to LG, that he can refer all matters to the President.According to the Act, the Delhi assembly may not make rules that enable it or its committees to consider day-to-day administrative matters and any rules requiring assembly to conduct inquiries into administrative decisions.
The new provisions to the Act, greatly reduces the relevance of the elected government. It condenses the productivity of the government and its timelines which makes it difficult for it to function on urgent matters, as the obligation of holding consultation with LG persist. Also, no decided time frame for the LG’s opinion means that he/she can take his/her time.Critics claim that the L-G could use these unrestricted powers to deadlock the government's administrative work and, as a result, turn the political tides against the incumbent if he so chooses. The amendment is also against the spirit of Federalism in a country where the constitutional makers focused on such balance between the state and centre which became irresistible with a trend more towards the centre, after partition. Even if logically analysed, the amendment is inherently in oppose to the judgement of the Supreme Court.
Central Government’s Opinion
The Union Government purposed that the amendment increases the efficiency of administrative and also defines the relationship between the Government of NCT of Delhi and Lieutenant Governor. They signified that it enhances public accountability and eases out the technical uncertainties.The amendments to the NCT Act, according to Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy, clarify the LG's position in Delhi and will lead to greater cooperation between the Centre and the Union Territory.
Analysing the amendments in Government of NCT of Delhi, 2021, it can be observed that these changes are a chance for the apex court to draft out the division of responsibilities and power between the LG and an elected government, if this goes to court. It’s an opportunity to make explanatory findings which would define the basic structure of the Constitution.