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Monday, June 27, 2022

L-G Anil Baijal vs Delhi govt: How the stand-off played out over the years

The first big difference of opinion between Baijal and the government was seen over the doorstep delivery of services.

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi |
Updated: May 19, 2022 6:07:14 am
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and L-G Anil Baijal (Express file photo by Praveen Khanna)

Delhi Lieutenant Governors, since the Aam Aadmi Party came into power as the single largest party in 2015, have had a tumultuous relationship with the state government.

Anil Baijal, who is the current L-G and sent his resignation from the post to the President on Wednesday, is no different. While his term saw periods of relative calm, as opposed to that of former L-G Najeeb Jung, there were several issues on which he and the elected government, led by Arvind Kejriwal, differed.

Delhi, being a Union Territory with special character, is government both by the elected state government and the Centre through the L-G. Matters related to land, police, law & order and services come under the L-G. In 2021, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 was passed by the Parliament, which effectively made the L-G the overall head of the Delhi government, meaning all files would have to get his assent.

🔴 The first big difference of opinion between Baijal and the government was seen over the doorstep delivery of services, under which a ‘sahayak’ would go to people’s houses and collect and upload documents for them to apply for several services such as getting a caste certificate, applying for a learners license etc. In December 2017, Baijal’s office issued a statement which said that the proposal had implications for “safety and security of women and senior citizens, possibility of corruption, bad behaviour, breach of privacy, loss of documents, etc, and adds unnecessary expenditure for the government and the people… the unnecessary road trips taken by the service delivery persons would add to air pollution.” A month later, however, he approved the scheme.

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🔴 Among the biggest stand-offs came in early 2018, was after Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash was allegedly assaulted by AAP MLAs at Kejriwal’s home during a meeting. IAS officers in the city, the party alleged were not cooperating with the cabinet and work was stalled after the alleged incident.

While Health Minister Satyendar Jain first sat on dharna at the L-G Office, he was soon joined by Kejriwal and his cabinet of minister. The stand-off lasted nine days. Delhi government officials said later that the main issue was the passing of the file on the installation of CCTV cameras across the city, which was an important poll promised made by the party.

🔴 The clash between the L-G and the government also came to the fore over the ambitious doorstep delivery of ration scheme. While the elected government said that the scheme should be implemented at the earlier, the L-G did not give the go-ahead, citing a lack of clearance from the Union government and an ongoing litigation involving the scheme. Delhi has since been locked in battle with the Centre over the implementation of the scheme, which it passed in its cabinet in November 2017 over the usage of grain provided by the Centre in a state scheme.

🔴 In July 2018, the Supreme Court in a verdict said that in matters other than land, police, law & order and services, the L-G was “bound by the aid and advice of the government”. The judgment gave a freer hand to the elected government. In 2019, A Supreme Court two-judge bench delivered a split judgment on the jurisdiction of the Centre and the Delhi government over the appointment and transfer of bureaucrats in. Both justices agreed that the Centre will have control over the Anti-Corruption Bureau while the Delhi government will have the powers to appoint special public prosecutors and directors under the Electricity Act.

🔴 After riots broke out in the Capital in 2020, the Delhi police set forth a proposal to hire special public prosecutors for riot and anti-CAA protest cases being tried in the Delhi courts. While AAP said that this was their exclusive power, the L-G referred the matter to the President after a long tussle, and the Delhi police got its preferred panel of lawyers. The Delhi government took the matter to HC, challenging the decisions of the L-G. The matter is pending in court. Delhi police also got a lawyers’ panel of its choice in cases against those allegedly involved in violence at the Red Fort during the a farmers’ protest rally on Republic Day.

🔴 In mid-2020, as Covid cases started increasing in the Capital, DDMA, headed by Baijal, issued an order saying that all those testing positive for the disease would have to isolate in Covid Care Centres and not at home, irrespective of the severity of disease. The decision was later rolled back.

🔴 After the medical oxygen crisis during the second Covid wave in 2021, the Delhi government passed an order to set up a committee to probe whether people had died due to the shortage of oxygen. Baijal opposed the decision, saying a committee set up by the Supreme Court was already looking into the issue.

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