By Yash Shukla
In Delhi and Puducherry, the elected governments, led by Aam Aadmi Party leader Kejriwal and V Narayanswami of the Congress party respectively, have accused the central government of using Lieutenant Governors (LGs) to rule indirectly and stall the governance in the Union territories. The accusations made by both the chief ministers, by and large, are similar in nature. Delhi and Puducherry are the only two union territories which are essentially different from others as both these UTs have their own elected assemblies and the council of ministers led by the chief minister.
Since the time Kejriwal came to power, he has been levelling these accusations against the central government and has pleaded his inability to govern the state because of hostility showed by the agent of the central government in the form of LG. When he came to power for the first time in Delhi, Najeeb Jung was the LG and since December 2016, Jung has been replaced by Anil Baijal. Similarly, Kiran Bedi, who unsuccessfully contested the election as the Bharatiya Janata Party CM candidate against Kejriwal, has been appointed as the LG of Puducherry. In the midst of charges and counter-charges, the people of Puducherry and Delhi have been suffering due to lack of governance in their respective states. What has been the legal and political position of the central government, state governments and the judiciary is worth looking at.
Genesis of the problem
There is a pertinent question in the minds of people about the emergence of the tussle between the LG and the elected governments. Before 2014 Lok Sabha elections, both the elected governments in Delhi and at the centre were ruled by the same party, the Congress party. Hence, both the governments would amicably settle their differences, if any emerge. However, since the time BJP came to power, it has been asserting its authority by using the LGs in these states. As a result, the governments led by Kejriwal and Narayanswami find the emergence of two parallel power centres difficult to handle.
AAP argues for its stand
The first real setback for the AAP government came in 2016 when the Delhi High Court ruled in favour of the LG, declaring it as the administrative head of Delhi. The verdict has been challenged by the state government in the Supreme Court. The decision is unlikely to be in favour of the state government here too, as has been made clear by the initial observation of the court. In its first hearing of the appeal made by the Delhi government, the apex court said that the administration, according to the constitution, tilts in favour of the LG. It also said that in case of a disagreement between the LG and the state government, the LG cannot “sit on files” indefinitely and has to forward the dispute to the president for its redressal. The AAP government is still hopeful of a favourable decision from the court. It believes that it has a strong case and further argues that if all the decisions have to be taken by the LG, then what is the need of an elected government.
Ambiguity in the laws
Article 239(AA) of the constitution and the Government of National Territory of Delhi Act (1991) are the two laws which have separated and defined the powers of LG and the elected governments. Delhi and Puducherry are neither union territories nor full-fledged states. According to Article 239(AA), the council of ministers led by the chief minister will “aid and advise” the LG on all the decisions except ‘land, police and public order’. In case of disagreement, the LG is supposed to forward the matter to the president for its redressal. Similar language is used in the constitution to define the powers of the elected government at the centre where the council of ministers led by the Prime Minister will “aid and advise” the president. However, the decision of the central government is binding on the president and not advisory in nature. According to this reading, similar should be the case with Delhi government and its council of ministers led by the chief minister whose “aid and advice” should be binding on the LG instead of being advisory in nature.
Also, the people of Delhi have the right to have a representative government which, in other words, means that decisions taken for them are taken by the leaders elected by them rather than a constitutional authority appointed by the centre.
A harmonious solution
Both the elected governments in these Union territories and the central government should start deliberations. They need to be cautious to insulate such deliberations from politics. It is incumbent on the central government and the state governments to clear the differences, once and for all, and transparently separate the powers of the LG and the state governments in these UTs.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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