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Monday, September 20, 2021

In plea before SC, Delhi govt says Centre giving more powers to L-G violates basic structure of Constitution

Approaches top court against amendments to GNCTD Act, says they ‘overturn constitutionally stipulated balance between’ Delhi govt and Centre.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: September 15, 2021 6:43:50 pm
The plea added the provisions “impermissibly encroach on the scope of the Delhi Legislative Assembly’s core legislative functions by interfering with the power of the Assembly..." (file photo)

The Delhi government has moved the Supreme Court, challenging amendments made to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Act that give greater powers to the Lieutenant Governor.

In its petition, the Delhi government has contended that the amendments violate the “basic structure” of the Constitution. The plea further states that the changes “diminish the constitutionally guaranteed powers and functions of the elected legislative assembly and council of ministers of the NCT of Delhi, overturn the constitutionally stipulated balance between the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Government, and impermissibly overrule the… (2018) judgment” of the court in the “Government of NCT of Delhi vs Union of India” case.

The plea points out that the Supreme Court Constitution Bench had in its 2018 judgment “clarified that the provisions of Article 239AA — including those concerning the powers and functions of the LG — must be interpreted in light of the constitutional commitment to federalism, and to representative democracy”. It also highlighted that the court had “interpreted Article 239AA so as to place limitations upon the power of the L-G, in order to ensure that the default situation would remain that of a parliamentary democracy with an elected legislature and a responsible executive, while a certain space was retained for exceptional circumstances, where the L-G would be required to play a limited role”.

The Delhi government said that the amendments “impermissibly reverse this delicate constitutional balance, as set out and interpreted by” the court.

“The impugned provisions are an attempt to treat the L-G as the default administering authority over the NCT of Delhi, by equating the position of the L-G with that of the ‘government’, by authorising the L-G to withhold consent from bills that, in his judgment, maybe ‘incidentally’ outside the scope of legislative assembly’s legislative powers (even though such a bill, if passed into law, would be constitutionally valid under the doctrine of pith and substance), and by empowering the L-G to interfere in the day-to-day administration of the NCT by introducing the requirement of obtaining the L-G’s views before executing a decision of the Council of Ministers under any bunch of laws that are to be specified by L-G, through general orders,” it said.

The plea added that the provisions “impermissibly encroach on the scope of the Delhi Legislative Assembly’s core legislative functions by interfering with the power of the Assembly to frame its own rules of business or to hold the executive to account, a core function of any legislature”.

They “violate the principles of federalism, separation of powers, representative democracy, and the rule of law, which are essential features of the Constitution”, and “therefore… violate the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution,” the government argued.

It said that the Centre, through its amendments, gave more power to the Lieutenant Governor than the elected government of the people of Delhi.

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