Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Jurisdictional conflict in the running of Delhi

The 69th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1991, added Article 239AA to the constitution by which the UT of Delhi is called the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
By IASToppers
August 20, 2020

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Lieutenant Governor of Delhi
  • Discretion of LG in Delhi
  • Government of NCT of Delhi vs. Union of India (2018)
  • Delhi riot cases
  • Conclusion

Jurisdictional conflict in the running of Delhi

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Introduction:

The long-standing power tussle between the Lieutenant Governor’s office and Delhi government is a common observance in the National Capital. Articles 239AA and 239AB establish a democratic and representative form of government for NCT of Delhi, but there have been repeated jurisdictional conflicts between the two.

Lieutenant Governor of Delhi:

  • The First Schedule of the Constitution of India grants Delhi the status of a Union Territory.
  • It is administered by the President, through an Administrator to be appointed by him (under Article 239).
  • The 69th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1991, added Article 239AA to the constitution by which the UT of Delhi is called the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Administrator thereof appointed under Article 239 is designated as the Lieutenant Governor. (Article 239AA).
  • The LG is the head of a UT and representative of the Union Government.
  • The LG, like the Governor, acts a titular head of the UT, but, the powers of an LG are wider than that of a Governor.
  • The Delhi government exercises no power in the domain of land, law, and police and the LG has complete discretion to decide upon any of these matters.

Discretion of LG in Delhi:

  • The LG shall act in his discretion in a matter which falls outside the purview of the powers conferred on the Legislative Assembly but in respect of which powers or functions are entrusted or delegated to him by the President.
  • If the LG is under any law required to act in his discretion, his decision on that case will be final.
  • The LG exercises his authority with the help of Police Commissioner of Delhi and Vice Chairperson, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) who have their independent administrative setups.
  • LG is Ex-Officio Chairman of DDA, he exercises his executive functions through Appellate Authority under various Acts/Rules/Regulations as applicable in Delhi.
  • In the case of difference of opinion between the LG and his Ministers on any matter, the Lt. Governor can refer it to the President for decision and act according to the decision given on that by the President.
  • Under President’s Rule, the LG becomes full-fledged executive head of the government. He then has the power to appoint a group of advisors which will act as Council of ministers.
  • The time duration of the President’s rule in the UT is also subject to the discretion of the LG.

Government of NCT of Delhi vs. Union of India (2018):

  • The landmark majority judgement of SC in 2018 ruled that Delhi’s LG doesn’t have independent decision-making powers.
  • The Delhi government can legislate on all issues but not on three which include land, and law and order.
  • The court ruled that LG can’t act as an obstructionist i.e. he (or she) shouldn’t act mechanically, and stall the Council of Ministers’ decisions.
  • He can refer differences of opinion to the President only in exceptional matters, and not as a general rule.
  • LG needs to work harmoniously with the Council of Ministers and an attempt should be made to settle differences of opinion with discussions.
  • All decisions taken by the Council of Ministers should be communicated to the LG, but this doesn’t mean his concurrence is required.

Delhi riot cases:

  • There is a new tussle between the duo over the issue of appointment of prosecutors for conducting the Delhi riot cases in the High Court.
  • As per the High Court and the Supreme Court, the appointment of prosecutors is exclusively within the purview of the State government.
  • But the LG referred it under proviso to Article 239AA (4) to the President stating that there is a difference of opinion between him and the government over this matter.
  • The LG appointed all the prosecutors whose names were submitted by the Delhi Police and thus the State government’s list was rejected.
  • This clearly points to the fault lines which still exist in the power equations in the capital’s administrative structure.

Conclusion:

It can be concluded that the Council of Ministers as representatives of the people and the Lt. Governor as the nominee of the President are required to function in harmony within the Constitutional parameters. The Lt. Governor should not emerge as an adversary having a hostile attitude towards the Council of Ministers of Delhi; rather, he should act as a facilitator. This is what is required for collaborative federalism, constitutional balance and the concept of constitutional governance.

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