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Explained: What is the controversy around Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act?

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New Delhi, Apr 28: The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, has come into force on April 27 which affords primacy to the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) over the elected government. It can be seen that the Parliament had passed the bill in the Lok Sabha on March 22 and in the Rajya Sabha on March 24.

Explained: What is the controversy around Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act?

During the time of its passing, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had deemed it a "sad day for Indian democracy," having previously alleged that its enshrinement would amount to serious dilution of the powers of the Delhi government.

While tabling the Bill, the Centre had claimed that the amendment Bill sought to effect the 2018 Supreme Court's interpretation, towards defining the responsibilities of the elected government and the Lt Governor in line with constitutional provisions.

Murder of democracy, says former Puducherry CM on Govt of National Capital Territory of Delhi ActMurder of democracy, says former Puducherry CM on Govt of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act

Also, the Statements and Objectives section of the Act states, "It further seeks to ensure that the Lieutenant Governor is necessarily granted an opportunity to exercise the power entrusted to him under proviso to clause (4) of Article 239AA of the Constitution, in select category of cases and also to make rules in matters which incidentally encroach upon matters falling outside the purview of the Legislative Assembly."

A new sub-section has also been added to Section 21 of the GNCTD Act which revises the definition of the 'Government' to now mean the 'Lieutenant Governor.' Section 44 of the Act now states that an elected government cannot take any executive action until it has been granted prior permission by the Lieutenant Governor even in those matters that the Legislative Assembly, reportedly, has the right to make laws.

What is the controversy arise from?

It can be seen that the Bill has been a bone of contention between Delhi's AAP government and the BJP-led Centre for several years. On July 4, 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court arrived at a verdict that noted that the Lieutenant-Governor's concurrence was not required on any issue barring those relating to the police, public order and land.

However, it did state that any decision made by the Council of Ministers needed to be communicated to the L-G.

"It has to be clearly stated that requiring prior concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor would absolutely negate the ideals of representative governance and democracy conceived for the NCT of Delhi by Article 239AA of the Constitution," the court has said.

The L-G was bound by the "aid and advice of the Council of Ministers". The bench also noted that the status of the L-G was not "that of a Governor of a State, rather he remains an Administrator, in a limited sense, working with the designation of Lieutenant Governor."

The court's verdict was lauded by the Delhi government which had been embroiled in a heated dispute with the central government over the extent of the powers of the L-G. It argued that the Supreme Court's verdict provided it with increased flexibility over policymaking especially as it related to schemes like free electricity, free bus rides for women, and doorstep delivery of rations.

In the view of analysts, it also puts paid to any ambition that an elected government may have had regarding achieving full statehood for Delhi - something that the BJP, Congress and AAP have all previously pledged in their manifestos in the past.

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