Within hours of the Supreme Court ruling that the Delhi government does not need the concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor for its decisions but has to only keep him posted, the AAP government Wednesday announced it was expediting implementation of key projects it had promised the city. Until Wednesday evening, the office of the Lt-Governor had made no comment.
To make up for what Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia called “two years that were wasted”, the AAP cabinet met at the Delhi Secretariat at 4 pm and issued directions to immediately speed up two delayed projects: doorstep delivery of ration and installation of CCTV cameras.
“Now that the obstructions that the Lt-Governor had been imposing on the two schemes have been removed, we have issued orders to implement them immediately,” said Sisodia. Promises ranging from setting up 1,000 mohalla clinics by 2017-18 to regularisation of guest teachers had helped the party rise to power. “But for nearly two years, an obstructionist Lt-Governor, following instructions of the Modi government, slowed down the rate of development. This will change now,” he said.
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Referring to the Supreme Court ruling, he said the bench had “clarified” that the Lt-Governor hasn’t “been entrusted with any independent decision-making power” and while rules say that cabinet decisions need to be “communicated” to the Lt-Governor, this does “not mean that concurrence… is required”.
The two schemes for which directions were issued Wednesday, the AAP said, was just the tip of the iceberg. On the key promise of mohalla clinics, only 164 mohalla clinics exist. In the outcome Budget it presented in May, the AAP government revised its target to 530 clinics for the next financial year.
According to the government, the Delhi Cabinet had approved a health insurance scheme with the aim of providing citizens a reliable option to meet medical expenses, and sent the file for approval in June 2016. But that proposal, it claimed, was “virtually rejected” by the Lt-Governor.
On education, the government failed to meet its target of creating 54 model schools this year — only 19 are functional. On regularising guest teachers, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused the L-G of “opposing” the Bill to regularise guest teachers — the Lt-Governor had said that ‘services’ was under his purview.
“With schools or clinics, there are two problems. There is shortage of land since DDA is the land-owning agency. But with guest teachers, it was simply a matter of the Lt-Governor saying teachers provided services, so it was a service matter,” said an AAP leader. Sisodia said the court verdict made it “clear” that services had been restored to the government.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who was one of the Delhi government’s lawyers in the case, came out in support of Kejriwal and targeted the BJP: “Why did the L-G (with a fine track record) allow himself to be misdirected in law by his political masters?… The present controversy was manufactured by the BJP and the central government. Now, happily resolved by the Constitutional Court.” The judgment, Chidambaram said, “contains important lessons for Puducherry”.