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24 March, 2021

10 Min Read

GNCT Bill,2020-An extraordinary legislative misadventure

GNCT Bill,2020-An extraordinary legislative misadventure

Legislative misadventure

  • If the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which has been passed by the Lok Sabha, is enacted, the little large Indians of the national capital may as well keep off the polling booths, for their vote will be rendered meaningless.
  • This Bill is an extraordinary legislative misadventure.
  • It states the opposite of what the apex court said when it interpreted Article 239AA of the Constitution.

Contents of the Bill

  • The Bill says the expression “Government” referred to in any law to be made by the Legislative Assembly in Delhi shall mean the “Lieutenant Governor”.
  • It vests in the Lieutenant Governor the power to refuse assent and reserve a Bill passed by the Legislative Assembly for the consideration of the President, if, in his opinion, the Bill incidentally covers any of the matters which fall outside the purview of the Assembly’s powers.
  • The Bill says before taking any executive action, the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor shall be obtained on such matters as may be specified.

Supreme court’s judgement

  • The Supreme Court has the last word on the interpretation of the Constitution. That constitutional provision (Article 239AA) remains unamended.
  • Any legislation which speaks to the contrary would be plainly illegal.
  • The basis of the judgment remaining the same, the attempt in the Bill is to legislatively overrule a judgment.
  • That would be an exercise of judicial power, which Parliament does not possess.
  • The court was loath to centralise the power in the Lieutenant Governor and went only thus far to say that the Council of Ministers should keep the Lieutenant Governor informed of its decisions.
  • This would enable any decision on which there was a difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and the government to be referred to the President.
  • It said the power to refer to the President was an exception; that the Lieutenant Governor need not in a mechanical manner refer every decision; and most important, he will be guided by the concept of constitutional morality and the question of prior concurrence was out of question, since that would set at nought the ideals of representative governance and democracy.

Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab (1974)

  • The earlier judgment in Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab (1974) had ruled against the deification of any individual like the Lieutenant Governor, for it had warned that elections would then become but “Dead Sea fruits”.
    • Second, the voice of the citizen could not go unrecognised.
  • “This is only possible if the agency enacting and enforcing the law comprises of the elected representatives chosen by the free will of the citizens,” thundered the court in Govt. of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India, 2018.
  • The elected representatives and the Council of Ministers, being accountable to the voters of Delhi, must have the appropriate powers so that they can perform their functions effectively and efficiently, the court emphasised.
  • Any other interpretation, felt the court, would nullify the concepts of pragmatic federalism and collaborative federalism.

Issues with the bill- Administrative chaos

  • By this thoughtless amendment, the Lieutenant Governor has been made synonymous with the Government.
  • The government, a product of the beautiful democratic process, is replaced by one individual, a nominee of the Central government, who will occupy office at its pleasure.
  • Not stopping there, the Bill vests in that individual enormous powers to refer all and sundry matters to the President.
  • The further mandate in the Bill that before taking any executive action, the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor needs to be taken is in the teeth of the court’s interpretation, which only wanted the Lieutenant Governor to be kept informed.

Conclusion

  • Delhi cannot afford administrative breakdowns.
  • It will reflect very poorly on the Central government if administration comes to a standstill in the capital.
  • The Prime Minister should step in and immediately abort the Bill in order to uphold the principles of participative democracy, cooperative federalism, collective responsibility to the House and, above all, constitutional morality, which we deeply cherish.

Source: TH

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