By Yash Shukla
The elected governments in Delhi and Puducherry, led by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal and V Narayanswami of the Congress party respectively, have accused the Central government of ruling indirectly using Lieutenant Governors (LGs) appointed by it to stall the governance in the union territories. The accusations made by both the Chief Ministers, by and large, are similar in nature as Delhi and Puducherry are the only two union territories essentially different from other union territories. This is because despite being union territories, both have their own elected assemblies and the council of ministers led by the Chief Minister.
Since coming to power for the first time in 2013, Kejriwal has been levelling these accusations against the Central government and has pleaded his inability to govern the state because of hostility being shown 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 When he came to power for the first time in Delhi, Najeeb Jung was the LG, and since then has been replaced by Anil Baijal. Similarly, Kiran Bedi, who unsuccessfully contested the election as the BJP CM candidate against Kejriwal, has been appointed as the LG of Puducherry. In the charges and counter-charges, if there is somebody who is suffering, it is the people of Puducherry and Delhi due to lack of governance in their respective states.
Change of governments at the Centre
There is a pertinent question in the minds of people that why the tussle between the LGs and the elected governments have started emerging now. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, both the elected government in Delhi and at the Centre were ruled by the same party—Congress. Hence, both the governments would amicably settle the differences whenever they emerged. However, since the BJP has come to power, it has been asserting its authority by using the LGs in the states. As a result, the governments led by Kejriwal and Narayanswami are finding it hard due to the emergence of two power centres.
Setback for AAP
The first real setback for the AAP government came in 2016 when the Delhi High Court ruled in favour of the LG, declaring LG as the administrative head of Delhi. The verdict has been challenged by the state government in the Supreme Court where also the decision is unlikely to be in favour of the state government. This 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 disagreement on a decision 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 for a decision from the court in their favour as the government believes that it has a strong case, as if all the decisions have to be taken by the LG, then what is the need for an elected government.
Ambiguity in the Constitution
Article 239(AA) and 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 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 defining 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 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.
The way out
Both the elected governments in these union territories and the Central government should start deliberations without bringing politics during the discussion. It is incumbent upon the Central government and the State governments to once and for all clear the differences and transparently separate the powers of the LG and the State governments in these union territories. The Central government’s word has some control over these areas. However, the demarcation of powers between the elected government and the LG should be done at the earliest.
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