Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal effectively became the “government” in the national Capital as the Centre on Tuesday notified the amended Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021. The Union Home ministry issued the order through a gazette notification, making the Act effective from April 27.
President Ram Nath Kovind had given his assent to the controversial Bill on March 28 after it was cleared in both Houses of Parliament amid strong protests from the Opposition, which said the proposed reforms were against the federal structure of India’s democracy.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Bill was passed on March 25 after the members voted through division slips, with 83 voting in favour and 45 against the motion. MPs opposing the Bill, including Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge, walked out of the house right after voting. Similar protests erupted in the Lok Sabha while passing the legislation on March 22.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had called it a “sad day for Indian democracy” after the Bill was passed in the Parliament.
National Capital Territory of Delhi Amendment Act
At the core of the new legislation is Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution, which gives Delhi the special character of a Union Territory, with a Legislative Assembly that has a lieutenant governor as its administrative head.
The law significantly expands the powers of the Centre-appointed lieutenant governor of Delhi, at the cost of the elected Assembly. Among other things, the law proposes that the term “government” in the law that underpins the functioning of Delhi refers to the lieutenant governor and not the elected leadership. Additionally, the legislation requires the Delhi government to seek the opinion of the lieutenant governor before taking any executive action.
Delhi has an elected Assembly, which has been dominated by the Aam Aadmi Party for six years now. The party managed to get consecutive landslide victories in 2015 and 2020, with the Bharatiya Janata Party in a distant second place both times.
This has meant, however, that AAP’s tenure since 2015 has been marked by constant tussles between its government and the Centre, primarily through the office of the lieutenant governor. In addition to that, the tensions have continued as the Centre controls land, public order and the Delhi Police.