Delhi Services Bill and opposition to it
- What has happened:
- The Delhi Services Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Monday amid the opposition's din. The Bill will replace an ordinance promulgated for handling the transfers and postings of senior officers in the Delhi government.
- The ordinance was promulgated by the central government on May 19, a week after the Supreme Court handed over the control of services in Delhi, excluding police, public order, and land, to the elected government.
- Delhi government has been at loggerheads with the Centre over the control of Group-A and DANICS officers in the National Capital Territory government.
- Responding to the debate on the bill, Central Government made it clear that the central government has the power to make laws on Union territories, and Delhi being a Union territory, the Centre enjoys full rights to make rules for it as well.
- Delhi Services Bill, 2023:
- In May 2023, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Delhi government, granting it control over most services in the capital city, except for public order, land, and police cases.
- However, the Centre introduced an ordinance on May 19 to override the top court’s order, giving more authority to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) in matters of appointments and transfers of bureaucrats.
- Key Features of the Bill
- National Capital Civil Services Authority: The bill establishes the National Capital Civil Services Authority to make recommendations to the LG on certain service-related matters, including transfers, vigilance, and disciplinary proceedings.
- Powers of the LG: The bill expands the discretionary role of the LG, allowing him to override the recommendations of the Authority and act on his sole discretion in certain matters.
- Disposal of Matters by Ministers: The bill allows Delhi government ministers to issue standing orders for matter disposal, subject to consultation with the concerned Department Secretary. However, certain sensitive matters must be submitted to the LG for his opinion before issuing any order.
- Duties of Secretaries: Department Secretaries must bring certain matters to the notice of the LG, Chief Minister, and Chief Secretary, particularly those that may lead to controversy with other state governments, courts, or the central government.
- Important changes related to Services:
- Removal of Clause 3A: The bill eliminates a provision from the ordinance that prevented the Delhi Assembly from creating laws related to ‘State Public Services and State Public Service Commission.’ This gives the assembly the authority to make regulations concerning services.
- No Annual Report needed by NCCSA: The National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA) will no longer be required to submit an annual report to Parliament and the Delhi Assembly, removing the obligation to present the report before these legislative bodies.
- Modification in Appointment Cycle: The bill dilutes provisions related to the appointment of chairpersons and members of various authorities, boards, commissions, and statutory bodies in Delhi. It removes the requirement for “orders/directions of ministers” in matters that need to be sent to the central government before the Lieutenant Governor and Chief Minister.
- Appointment of Delhi LG Powers: The bill empowers the Lieutenant Governor to select members of the Delhi government’s Boards and Commissions from a list of names suggested by the NCCSA, including recommendations from the Delhi Chief Minister. These Boards and Commissions are established by regulations passed by the Delhi Assembly.
- Constitutional Debate / reasons for opposition:
- Opposition argue that the bill may violate the principle of parliamentary democracy by potentially giving the central government powers over services in Delhi, thereby breaking the triple chain of accountability between civil servants, ministers, and the electorate.
- The bill expands the LG’s discretionary powers, allowing him to override the decisions of the Council of Ministers, which could potentially impede the functioning of the democratically elected government.
- Certain terms in the bill, such as “sole discretion” of the LG and criteria for matters brought to his notice, are considered vague and could lead to ambiguity in implementation.
- Opposition leaders have voiced strong opposition to the bill, claiming that it undermines democratic heritage, the spirit of federalism, and the powers of an elected government.
- Government’s Defense
- The Centre has defended the bill, asserting that India has a quasi-federal structure where the Centre holds primacy.
- The bill aims to balance the interests of Delhi and the nation.
- Concluding remark:
- The Delhi Services Bill, 2023, has become a focal point of contention between the Delhi government and the central government.
- While proponents argue that it brings clarity to the distribution of powers, opponents claim that it may infringe upon the principles of parliamentary democracy and the constitutional separation of powers.
- As the debate continues, it remains to be seen how the bill’s implementation will unfold and its impact on governance in the national capital.
Key Legislations and Judgements on Delhi :
Delhi is classified as a Union Territory under the States Reorganization Act.
69th Constitutional Amendment (Article 239AA) passed, making Delhi a UT with legislature.
Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Act, 1991 is passed.
70th Constitutional Amendment exempts certain laws from being considered constitutional amendments.
Ministry of Home Affairs takes control over services from Delhi legislature, empowering the LG.
Delhi High Court rules that services lie outside the Delhi legislative assembly’s purview.
Supreme Court rules that the LG must act on “aid and advice” of the Delhi council of ministers.
Supreme Court delivers a split verdict on the issue of services.
Union government amends the GNCTD Act, expanding the LG’s powers in certain matters.
Supreme Court rules that Delhi government has control over services.
Central government promulgates an Ordinance to exclude “services” from Delhi legislature’s purview.
GNCTD (Amendment) Bill, 2023 passed by the Parliament awaiting Presidents Assent.
- Article 239AA of the Constitution:
- Article 239 AA was inserted in the Constitution by The Constitution (69th Amendment) Act, 1991 to give Special Status to Delhi following the recommendations of the S Balakrishnan Committee that was set up to look into demands for statehood for Delhi.
- It says that the NCT of Delhi will have an Administrator and a Legislative Assembly.
- Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the Legislative Assembly “shall have power to make laws for the whole or any part of the NCT with respect to any of the matters in the State List or Concurrent List in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union territories” except on the subject of police, public order, and land.
- Further, the Article 239AA also notes that L-G has to either act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, or he is bound to implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him.
- Also, Article 239AA, empowers the L-G to refer a difference of opinion on ‘any matter’ with the Council of Ministers to the President.
- Thus, this dual control between L-G and the elected government leads to a power tussle.
- Administration of UT’s in India:
- Part VIII (Articles 239 to 241) of the Constitution deals with the Union Territories.
- UTs in India are administered by the President through an administrator appointed by him/her. The administrator is not elected but rather a representative of the President.
- In some UTs, such as Delhi and Puducherry, the administrator holds significant powers, including the ability to make laws and regulations for the UT.
- In other UTs, such as Lakshadweep and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, the administrator's powers are limited to providing advice to the elected government.
- The judiciary in UTs is also governed by the Constitution and the laws made by the Parliament. However, in some UTs, such as Delhi, the High Court has wider powers than in other UTs, such as Lakshadweep.
- Special Provisions for Delhi and Puducherry:
- The Union Territories of Puducherry (in 1963), Delhi (in 1992) and Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 (yet to be constituted) are provided with a legislative assembly and a Council of Ministers headed by a Chief Minister.
- The Legislative assembly of the UT of Puducherry may make laws with respect to matters enumerated in List II or List III in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution in so far as these matters are applicable in relation to the Union Territory.
- The legislative assembly of National Capital Territory of Delhi also has these powers with the exception that Entries 1, 2 and 18 of the List II are not within the legislative competence of the legislative assembly.
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