Kejriwal Jung-Bedi Narayanaswamy: Why govt needs clear demarcation of powers in union territories

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Updated: January 10, 2017 1:18:01 PM

The Section 41 of the Government of National Capital Territory Act of Delhi, 1991 states that the Lt Gov can act in his discretion during a matter that falls outside the range of the powers conferred on the Legislative Assembly.

delhi union territory, arvind kejriwal najeeb jung, lt gobvernor delhi, kiran bedi v narayanaswamy, kiran bedi v naran=yanswamy conflict, delhi police arvind kejriwalUnder Article 239AA and AB of the Indian constitution, the Lt Governor has more power than other governors in other states. (PTI)

On January 5, 2017, Puducherry’s Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi overruled Chief Minister V NarayanaSwamy’s order to ban the use of social media for all official purposes. This came in the backdrop of the resignation of Delhi’s Lt Gov Najeeb Jung following a prolonged conflict with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on various matters such as the control of the police. Now, it must be understood that both cases, although similar looking are nowhere remotely twins. Puducherry might be a case of misplaced ambition, in my understanding. Kiran Bedi, well known IPS officer; standing up against the “oh so corrupted” system, decided to join it in 2015. She had failed in her own home territory to a relatively unknown candidate who had deserted the people just a year ago. But her participation meant that she was a member of the Narendra Modi-team and a high ranked position awaited her. Surely enough she was chosen as the Lt Gov of Puducherry. Fair enough. Nobody could deny that she had the credentials to back her. Once in Westeros, Bedi started bypassing the government on certain occasions holding a Janata darbar and having a keen interest in ruling. It must be noted that Kejriwal’s issue with Najeeb Jung is much different from that of the Puducherry’s elected government with Bedi. Unlike the National Capital, the police force in Puducherry comes under the control of the democratically elected government. And while the Narayanaswami government objected to her interference in the matters of the state, Bedi decided to ask government secretaries to form a WhatsApp group to keep her informed. It was then that the Chief Minister passed an order banning the formation of social media groups for official purposes and if the matter was really important, a permission had to be sought from the Chief Secretary. Bedi, however, passed an order on Twitter declaring the CM’s order “null and void”. As per the Puducherry Union Territory Act of 1963, the Lt Governor, despite being the administrator of the state, must act on the advice and the guidelines of the elected government. According to K Lakshminarayanan, parliamentary secretary to the Chief Minister the Madras High Court had earlier given a clear verdict in the case.

Let us now shift to the National Capital. Related heated confrontations and ugly public fights are how one could describe the relationship between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal former Lt Governor Najeeb Jung. Although such differences are not uncommon between CMs and Lt Govs in the City-State of Delhi, considering it serves as a base for both the Centre and the state governments, senior politicians and bureaucrats have openly said that the two offices have never had such ugly spats; even during the time of BJP-Congress clashes. The Section 41 of the Government of National Capital Territory Act of Delhi, 1991 states that the Lt Gov can act in his discretion during a matter that falls outside the range of the powers conferred on the Legislative Assembly. Now if the Lt Governor is under any law that needs him to act on his judgement, his decision must be regarded final. The law also states that the LT Governor can exercise his authority as given to him by the President in the matters of Police, Public Order and land. He could exercise his powers through the Police commissioner of Delhi and Vice Chairperson of Delhi development authority.

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So Kejriwal, all this while was fighting the wrong guy for the rights of the state government. Kejriwal is true in his own right to ask for his own bureaucrats but the constitution offers the Lt Gov. effective powers in many areas. In Delhi, the Lt Governor remains to be the executive authority in many spheres. Under Article 239AA and AB of the Indian constitution, the Lt Governor has more power than other governors in other states. Although it must be noted that the areas where the Chief Minister can take decisions and the Lt Governor can take independent decisions have been clearly demarcated. Clause 4 of the Article says, “There shall be a Council of Ministers consisting of not more than 10 percent of the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly, with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Lieutenant Governor in the exercise to his functions in relation to matters with respect to which the Legislative Assembly has power to make laws, except in so far as he is, by or under any law, required to act in his discretion.”

It must be understood that Delhi is also the home of the Central government and the control, thus remains more divided than that of other city-states. If Kejriwal seeks the bifurcation of Delhi, he must also ask the UP and Haryana government to take control over the part of the NCR that constitutes Delhi. Besides, Delhi is city state; its powers lying deeply within its Municipal Corporation, which comes under the control of the LT Governor. Hence, Kejriwal’s CM position really looks like a glorified Mayor, who has to understand that the real power lies with the Municipal Commissioner, the Lt Governor.

The Delhi High Court had held that L-G is the administrative head of Delhi following which the AAP government had challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court. The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government described the L-G as an “employee of the central government” in “a master-servant relationship”. Delhi High Court had decided that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is ruling a Union Territory and not a full state, the final word on the powers and duties of the Delhi government remains awaited. While almost all parties, BJP included, have repeatedly promised full statehood for Delhi, there are no signs of the promise being translated into a constitutional mandate. In effect, Delhi continues to be in Schedule I of the Constitution along with other Union Territories.

It has to understood that the despite the majority of the powers lying with the Centre, the state government too needs to function and needs the police and the MCD to keep law and order intact in the city-state. In 2012, CM Sheila Dixit’s government had a similar trouble. December 16, 2012, gangrape played no small part in the Congress’s disastrous performance in the Assembly elections the following year. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit attempted in vain to tell the public that law and order and police were not under the Delhi government. But Dikshit told IE, “The people do not necessarily care about such technicalities. For all practical purposes the Delhi Police and I as the CM were one and the same.” The constitution thus needs to be more clear about defining the powers of the democratically elected government of the state and the Centre appointed-commissioner.

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