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The Delhi dual governance conundrum

  • Published
    2nd May, 2022

Since 2015, Delhi has been struggling with the question of its governance. In the absence of statehood for Delhi, there has been a prolonged tussle on the relative powers of the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor/the Union government.

What is the dilemma of dual governance in Delhi?

  1. Special status of Delhi- Sixty-ninth Constitutional Amendment Act, 1991, gave Union Territory of Delhi its special status, renaming it as ‘National Capital Territory’ under Article 239 AA. The Administrator of Delhi was renamed as the Lieutenant Governor (L-G).
  2. Issues-The amendment put severe strain on the power relationship between the L-G and the elected government. Ambiguity rose on multiple issues such as power to appoint the Public Prosecutor in Delhi and to appoint a Commission of Enquiry under the Commissions of Enquiry Act and control over agencies, namely the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Civil Services and the Electricity Board.
  3. Verdict of Delhi High Court-Relying on the status of Delhi as a Union Territory, the Delhi High Court decided in favour of the Central Government. However, an appeal was made to the Supreme Court to refer the matter to a Constitution Bench.

Verdict of the Constitutional Bench of Supreme Court

  1. Upholding Principle of Democracy- The bench upheld that the objectives behind 69th CAA shall guide the interpretation of Article 239AA. By finding a parliamentary intent to accord a sui generis status of Delhi in distinction from other Union Territories, the courtbreathed the principles of federalism and democracy into Article 239AA.
  2. Delhi Government’s Power-The Court declared that the L-G is bound by the “aid and advice” of the Council of Ministersexcept when he refers a matter to the President for a final decision. It upheld the elected government’s power to make laws on all subjects in the Concurrent List, except three excluded subjects, in the State List.
  3. L-G’s Role in Governance-The SC ruled that L-G shall act as a facilitator rather than as an adversary to the elected government. The L-G should use his power to refer matters to the President only in exceptional circumstances and not consider “any matter” as “every matter”. At the same time, the Court ruled that the NCT of Delhi cannot be granted the status of a State under the constitutional scheme.
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