July 18, 2021 12:55:49 am
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia Saturday accused L-G Anil Baijal of encroaching upon the domain of the elected government, violating the 2018 Supreme Court Constitution Bench judgment, and committing the “murder of democracy”.
In a four-page letter, Sisodia alleged that Baijal has been calling bureaucrats to his office, issuing directions, and “putting pressure” on them to implement his orders. This is likely to deepen the rift between the L-G and the elected government, already on a collision course over the appointment of lawyers to argue cases related to the January 26 violence at Red Fort.
In the letter, Sisodia cited excerpts of the Supreme Court judgment to make his case that the L-G has no independent decision-making powers and is bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers. The L-G can exercise his power under Article 239AA(4) only in exceptional circumstances, Sisodia pointed out, quoting from the judgment.
Article 239AA(4) allows the Delhi L-G to refer to the President of India matters on which he fails to reach a consensus with the elected government, and pending the President’s final decision, the L-G’s decision prevails. On Friday, the Delhi Cabinet also accused the L-G of using his special powers in matters that do not qualify as “extremely rare”.
“Over the last few months, you have been calling prominent officials of the Delhi government to your office and issuing directions related to work of their departments. I have also come to know that you are issuing directions to the officials on subjects that come under the purview of the elected government, without even keeping the ministers in the loop, and later officials of the L-G secretariat are pressuring bureaucrats to implement such orders,” Sisodia wrote.
He “humbly requested” Baijal to desist from such “activities”.
“Apart from being unconstitutional, it amounts to contempt of the SC judgment and murder of democracy,” the Deputy CM argued, “reminding” Baijal that he may have been appointed by the BJP government, and being subjected to pressures from the party’s leaders and workers to work against the interests of the elected government, “but you are the incumbent L-G of Delhi”.
In March, the Parliament had cleared the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in Lok Sabha, reviving the dispute on distribution of powers between the elected government and the L-G. Under the law, the elected government needs to take the L-G’s advice before taking action on any Cabinet decision.
Sisodia did not refer to the passage of the Bill in the Parliament. However, he stressed that the Constitution has no provision under which the Delhi L-G can hold forth on subjects that come under the elected government, call officials, and issue directions on those subjects. “Under the Constitution, the Delhi L-G can take decisions only on police, land and public order,” he added.
Sisodia did, however, express his admiration for Baijal as an individual. The Deputy CM also underlined that he thought “deep and hard” before sending the missive. “You (Baijal) can use your time in this post to be remembered as someone who was a good person but weakened the democracy or you can strengthen democracy instead. People will then remember you as someone who did not buckle under BJP’s pressure and left the tenets of democracy stronger than before,” he wrote.
Sisodia added that India’s future does not “just hinge on good roads and buildings”. “Even the Mughals and the British built good roads, many dictators built impenetrable forts. But this country needs a robust democracy with a strong foundation,” he added.
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