Heated debate in Delhi assembly over GNCTD Act
The two-day Monsoon session of the Delhi assembly ended on Friday with a charged debate on the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, which gives overarching powers to the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) in the day-to-day functioning of the Capital.
While leaders of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) argued that the law – also called the GNCTD Act – is “unconstitutional” and “anti-democracy”, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asserted that the law did not weaken the powers of the Delhi Assembly.
“The GNCTD Act is anti-democracy. It is like a colonial law which gave all powers of governance to the Viceroy. The BJP has failed to understand that the law is not in their interest as well in the long-term… Demanding a law that makes it mandatory for all executive files to be cleared by the L-G is unfair. I condemn such a law,” said Delhi minister Satyendar Jain, who is in charge of health, home, power and urban development.
Delhi MLA Raghav Chadha said, “The GNCTD law makes elected governments impotent in administrative and legislative terms. In a few years, other parties can have a majority in this Assembly, including the BJP. This law is a major attack on federalism… This law violates the Supreme Court judgment in 2018 which clearly said that Delhi will be governed by the elected government and the lieutenant governor cannot interfere in any fashion other than domains of land, public order and police.”
“It reduces this House into a mere debating society,” said Chadha.
The law was notified in Delhi on April 27, after being passed in both houses of Parliament the previous month. While the AAP and other Opposition parties across the country criticised the law, the Centre claimed it promotes “harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive, and further defines the responsibilities of the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor, in line with the constitutional scheme of governance of Delhi, as interpreted by the Supreme Court.”
According to the controversial act, the “government” in Delhi would mean L-G in the context of all legislations to be passed by the state assembly. This, according to the Centre, is consistent with the Delhi’s status as a Union Territory to address the ambiguities in the interpretation of the legislative provisions.
Dismissing the AAP’s allegations, BJP MLA Vijender Gupta said, “The GNCTD Act does not reduce the power of the Assembly in any way. We fail to understand why the AAP wants to bring up the issue after eight months. Also, no committee of the Delhi Assembly has been nullified… The GNCTD Act asks that rules of the Assembly committees should be in line with rules that apply in the Lok Sabha. The law prohibits interference on day-to-day administrative work.”
The law makes it mandatory for the Delhi government to take the opinion of the L-G before taking any executive action in the city. It also bars Delhi government from making any rule to enable itself or its committees to consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the Capital or conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions. Any rule made till this act comes into effect will be void, according to the bill.