Government of NCTD Act

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Government of NCTD Act

Relevance:

GS-2 Federalism; Working of the Parliament.

Context:

  • The much-needed legislation to resolve the tussle of power between the Government of NCT Delhi and its Lieutenant Governor was passed by the parliament on 28th March 2021 under the name “Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Amendment Act 2021” (“GNCTD Amendment Act”) which came into force on 27th April 2021.

Introduction:

  • The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 is an Act to supplement the provisions of the Indian Constitution relating to the Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers for the National Capital Territory of Delhi and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • The GNCTD Act was enacted in 1991 to “supplement provisions of the Constitution relating to the Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers for the National Capital Territory of Delhi”.
  • It enabled the process of an elected government in Delhi.
  • The Supreme Court had in the past appreciated the 1991 developments, stating that the real purpose behind the Constitution (69th Amendment) Act, 1991 is to establish a democratic set-up and representative form of government wherein the majority has a right to embody their opinions in laws and policies pertaining to the NCT of Delhi subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution.

Why is Delhi a Union Territory?

  • Delhi is a Union Territory because it is the capital of the sovereign nation, India. If you look at the capital of various countries around the world, then you will observe in the majority of cases that capitals are usually governed by the Central Governments. Thinking logically also it sounds correct because capital belongs to the entire nation, thus it should be governed by the central government of the country.
  • For example, Canberra, the capital of the federal country Australia is governed by its central government.

The 69th Constitutional Amendment Act:

  • The 69th Constitutional Amendment Act of 19915 provided a special status to the Union Territory of Delhi, and redesignated it the National Capital Territory of Delhi and designated the administrator of Delhi as the lieutenant (lt.) governor. It created a legislative assembly and a council of ministers for Delhi. Previously, Delhi had a metropolitan council and an executive council.
  • The strength of the assembly is fixed at 70 members, directly elected by the people. The elections are conducted by the election commission of India. The assembly can make laws on all the matters of the State List and the Concurrent List except the three matters of the State List, that is, public order, police and land. But, the laws of Parliament prevail over those made by the Assembly.
  • The strength of the council of ministers is fixed at ten per cent of the total strength of the assembly, that is, seven–one chief minister and six other ministers. The chief minister is appointed by the President (not by the lt. governor). The other ministers are appointed by the president on the advice of the chief minister. The ministers hold office during the pleasure of the president. The council of ministers is collectively responsible to the assembly.
  • The council of ministers headed by the chief minister aid and advise the lt. governor in the exercise of his functions except in so far as he is required to act in his discretion. In the case of difference of opinion between the lt. governor and his ministers, the lt. governor is to refer the matter to the president for decision and act accordingly.
  • When a situation arises in which the administration of the territory cannot be carried on in accordance with the above provisions, the president can suspend their (above provisions) operation and make the necessary incidental or consequential provisions for administering the territory. In brief, in case of failure of constitutional machinery, the president can impose his rule in the territory. This can be done on the report of the lt. governor or otherwise. This provision resembles Article 356 which deals with the imposition of President’s Rule in the states.
  • The lt. governor is empowered to promulgate ordinances during recess of the assembly. An ordinance has the same force as an act of the assembly. Every such ordinance must be approved by the assembly within six weeks from its reassembly. He can also withdraw an ordinance at any time. But, he cannot promulgate an ordinance when the assembly is dissolved or suspended. Further, no such ordinance can be promulgated or withdrawn without the prior permission of the President.

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 15, 2021.  The Bill amends the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991.The Act provides a framework for the functioning of the Legislative Assembly and the government of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi.  The Bill amends certain powers and responsibilities of the Legislative Assembly and the Lieutenant Governor.

Important Provisions:

  • Restriction on laws passed by the Assembly:

    • The Bill provides that the term “government” referred to in any law made by the Legislative Assembly will imply Lieutenant Governor (LG).
  • Rules of Procedure of the Assembly:

    • The Act allows the Legislative Assembly to make Rules to regulate the procedure and conduct of business in the Assembly. 
    • The Bill provides that such Rules must be consistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha.
  • Inquiry by the Assembly into administrative decisions:

    • The Bill prohibits the Legislative Assembly from making any rule to enable itself or its Committees to:
      • consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the NCT of Delhi and
      • conduct any inquiry in relation to administrative decisions.  
    • Further, the Bill provides that all such rules made before its enactment will be void.
  • Assent to Bills:

    • The Act requires the LG to reserve certain Bills passed by the Legislative Assembly for the consideration of the President. 
    • These Bills are those:
      • which may diminish the powers of the High Court of Delhi,
      • which the President may direct to be reserved,
      • dealing with the salaries and allowances of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and members of the Assembly and the Ministers, or
      • relating to official languages of the Assembly or the NCT of Delhi. 
    • The Bill requires the LG to also reserve those Bills for the President which incidentally cover any of the matters outside the purview of the powers of the Legislative Assembly.
  • LG’s opinion for executive actions:

    • The Act specifies that all executive action by the government, whether taken on the advice of the Ministers or otherwise, must be taken in the name of the LG. 
    • The Bill adds that on certain matters, as specified by the LG, his opinion must be obtained before taking any executive action on the decisions of the Minister/ Council of Ministers.

Conclusions:

  • India is a federal country and, thus, disputes between various organs are bound to arise. Given the special place of the NCR, both the elected government of the Capital and the Union Government should come together to give the best governance and administration to the people of Delhi.

 



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