Delhi, the nation’s capital, has been the biggest loser in the tug-of-war between Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung. This follows the recent verdict of the High Court, wherein the Aam Aadmi Party’s dream of elevating constitutional status of Delhi received a death blow with the court asserting the LG is its “administrative head” and Delhi will continue to be a Union Territory.
The court has also set aside the AAP’s contention that the LG should act “only on the aid and advice of the ministers.” Thus, the LG’s position is re-confirmed as the ultimate authority in the State a position made more powerful after the establishment of the National Capital Territory by a constitutional amendment in 1991. The verdict was decisive as the court unambiguously stated that in matters in which the Assembly can make laws, the Ministry’s decisions should be communicated to the LG, and implemented only if LG did not disagree.
The LG has immediately ordered scrutiny of all major decisions and appointments made by the AAP government, and all orders of the autonomous bodies, corporations and other institutions under the Delhi government issued so far without reference to him and without his concurrence wherever it is required under the Constitution.
Like other metropolises, Delhi has various authorities, but under different masters. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is an elected body with Mayor as its head. The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) is governed by a Council with a chairman appointed by the Centre and includes the Chief Minister. The LG, who is the head of the National Capital Territory, is also the Chairman of the Delhi Development Authority, which reports to the Union Urban Development Ministry.
Delhi Police falls under the Union Home Ministry. Six different agencies handle public amenities like drains, sewerage, and water pipes, and five civic bodies, and the PWD maintains roads. The division of power creates some problems in functioning and these get aggravated when political and personnel differences are allowed to interfere in development and welfare work. When parties are keen on fighting for power, public good takes a back seat yielding place to a political tug-of-war for primacy and power. Scoring points in verbal battle and legal disputes often becomes the preoccupation of political leaders.
The court also did not accept the plea that the present tussle is a “classic” federal dispute. The present tendency of State governments to present every difference between the Centre and a State as a federal dispute is overruled. There may be sound arguments for granting or not full statehood. These have to be debated and examined as a separate question. But, the present controversy is over the existing powers of the Delhi government and its administrative head –the LG.
It is undemocratic to assert and act on that assertion that massive majority won in a general election grants massive powers going beyond those granted by the Constitution. The Delhi government sought clarity on the ratio of power between its Cabinet and the NDA government at the Centre from the Supreme Court by filing a suit. But, the court refused to hear the suit and asked the Delhi government first to appeal against the High Court verdict before seeking clarification of its powers.
However, it has stated that UTs are administered by the Centre, but it doesn’t mean they become merged with the Centre. Its observation that they “retain their independent identity” is crucial for further examination of Delhi’s status. Kejriwal seems to be bent on getting full Statehood for Delhi – a demand which all political parties at one time or other and particularly during elections have advocated.
Powerlessness is felt by the Delhi government in lack of control over the police and lack of power to sanction land for various purposes. Indeed, the administration of Delhi is run by different public authorities without a unified command. Some are elected, and others placed under the Delhi State or the Centre.
The National Capital Region (NCR) created in 1991 and given a special status under 69th Amendment of the Constitution covers the metropolitan area of the entire National Capital Territory of Delhi including New Delhi and designated urban areas surrounding it in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. It is one of the biggest agglomerations in the world.
The local government of the capital is said to be “in the shadow of the national government with more restricted powers and resources than those enjoyed by other cities.” Capital cities have exposed two kinds of conflicts one, regarding the extent of power and autonomy of the local government, and the other, over the method of resolving disputes.
By Dr S Saraswathi