Raj Niwas v/s CM Awas- The Trajectory of GNCTD Act
At the time of Independence, Indian Union faced a gamut of challenges in keeping the newly formed nation united. India was an aggregate of over 552 princely states and 17 British India provinces, thus, it became pertinent to centralize the authority in hands of Union Government. The basic structure of our constitution laid down by the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati, reflects upon the federal nature of Indian polity, which is indeed very different from Western federations. Our country runs on the principle of “cooperative federalism’’ conceiving the notion of a strong union, that is divided into multiple states for the purpose of efficient administration. Union Territories were special provinces which could not be included into the states and, thus, came under the direct control of the Centre. Delhi, holds a special position in this regard. Officially known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi, its neither a State nor a mere UT. It is due to this ambiguity and its resolution, that the new Amendment to GNCTD Bill is making headlines.
Immediately after liberation, Delhi became a State and the first elections to its legislative assembly took place in 1952. Chaudhary Brahm Prakash Yadav emerged as the winner for the CM seat. The winds turned in 1956, when the States Reorganization Committee provided for formation of States on linguistic basis. Delhi’s statehood was scrapped and it was bestowed with the Union territory status; it remained one until 1991, when the Government of NCT of Delhi Act was introduced in Parliament. Every subsequent party coming in power promised to secure full statehood to Delhi, especially the Aam Aadmi Party made it their main campaign agenda. All the progress seems to be lost with the GNCTD Bill getting amended.
Delhi, as the national capital and a growing megacity deserves much more than the tamed control of a single man. This privilege was awarded to it in the form of an elected Legislature, chosen by the people of Delhi to represent their will. The amendment in the GNCTD Act has overturned the constitutional balance, attained after so much struggle, tarnishing the federal fabric of the nation. If we look into the trajectory of the law, there was ambiguity over the meaning of the word ‘’Government’’ under Section 239 and 239AA. The new amendment has made it very clear that Government here means the Lieutenant Governor. From now onwards, every decision, in fact, day to day business of the elected assembly would be required to be tabled in front of the LG, who was earlier supposed to act on the advice of Council of Ministers, except in few subjects such as police, public order and land, as per the 2018 Supreme Court judgement. Simply put, this bill has altered the powers and responsibilities of both LG and legislative assembly, stating that every policy decision of the assembly must get approval of the LG in order to get executed. The Opposition is critical of the new bill. It complains that the government is making unethical use of its mammoth majority in the House to get unconstitutional Bills passed, and that it should have been referred to the Select Committee for consideration. Whatever the case may be, one fact remains clear, the LG is appointed by the Central Government and in most of the occasions , he is seen to represent its interests.
The rationale of Centre behind the law was articulated by Union Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy, claimed that this bill will end certain confusion and enhance the efficiency of administration. There are few takers for this argument on the side of Opposition parties.
The need of the hour is delegating the power in more and more hands to manage the bustling national capital, on lines of other capitals like Mexico City, but instead the bill has reversed the process by accumulating power in hands of a single person. States should be assigned greater powers when it comes to governing such a diverse population like Delhi. The peaceful interregnum period between 2018 and 2021 is known for stable governance, which was only possible, through the effective coordination of both LG and Delhi government. Many schemes were rolled out, like free bus service for women and free electricity up to certain units.
The events happening in the past few years are not good signs for a growing democracy. Instead of strengthening the democratically elected Municipalities, the emphasis has drifted to Delhi Development Authority, a body under the Central Government. A legislator is backed by the will of the people who vote him up to the house where people’s fate is decided.
Most of the intelligentsia believes that the Supreme Court should interfere at this critical moment to downturn this Amendment. They argue that it should keep the dignity of its 2018 judgement and uphold the trust of the people in these testing times. The political parties should also understand that the common man can not be made the punching bag for their political ambitions. Government and governance should be for the people, by the people and of the people. It should be prevented from becoming for itself, by itself and of itself.
By Abhishek Yadav