May 23, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss the Centre’s ordinance vs the Delhi government. We also look at the endeavour to phase out overhead water tanks in Chandigarh, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Centre’s ordinance vs the Delhi government: Who’s in the right?
Scraps between the Central government and states aren’t new. It’s not exactly a secret that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of Delhi and the Centre don’t see eye to eye on most things. While the AAP is pushing forward its anti-corruption and pro-development politics, the Centre doesn’t seem to think the party is doing a good job.
Last week, the Centre issued a late-night ordinance that undermined the AAP government’s authority to appoint and transfer bureaucrats per a Supreme Court (SC) ruling. The AAP has naturally taken offence and cried foul. Is the Delhi government right in its criticism, or is the Centre acting appropriately?
It’s safe to say that Kejriwal is no fan of the Lieutenant Governor (LG). In particular, VK Saxena, who took over in May last year. The AAP government has often accused Saxena and his office of meddling in the day-to-day affairs of the Delhi government. Kejriwal has previously alleged that the LG issued orders on every subject to the chief secretary, bypassing the elected AAP government.
Before moving ahead, let’s look at Article 239 AA of the Constitution. It was inserted by the Constitution (69th Amendment) Act, 1991, to give Delhi special status following the recommendations of the S Balakrishnan Committee that looked at the possibility of statehood for Delhi.
This ire towards the LG’s office began barely a year into the AAP’s reign in Delhi. There were already a half-dozen face-offs between the then-LG Najeeb Jung, backed by the Centre, and the AAP. Among the issues they tussled over were control of police and suspension of officers. At the time, the Home Ministry issued a notification in May 2015 that gave the LG more authority than the elected government.
The Delhi government didn’t take this lying down. It wanted control over the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) and the authority to appoint commissions of inquiry just like other states did.
They’ve taken the matter to the courts with several appeals. In 2018, the Centre cited the Constitution, the 1991 Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act (NCTD), and the Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules before the Supreme Court. The Centre’s argument was Delhi belonged to all Indians and not just those residing there.
Last year, the SC agreed to set up a five-judge Constitution bench to hear the legal issues concerning the scope of legislative and executive powers of the Centre and Delhi government over the control of administrative services in Delhi.
One of the issues on the table was the Delhi government’s petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act 2021. It stated the term “government” referred to in any law made by the Delhi Legislative Assembly implies the LG.
Earlier this month, the SC stated the elected Delhi government has power over all administrative services except those on the police, public order, and land. The Centre’s latest ordinance came after the SC order and called for a National Capital Civil Service Authority. Its members will be the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, and Principal Home Secretary to decide on postings and transfers.
VIEW: The Centre is within its right
In the wake of the ordinance, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was prepared for an outcry from the AAP. BJP’s Amit Malviya said the ordinance originates from the SC judgment. From the Centre’s standpoint, the ordinance was necessary. It accused the AAP government of intimidating officers in the wake of the SC verdict. Per the LG’s office, eight officers alleged harassment by the Kejriwal government.
Malviya cited the judgment, which in part stated that if Parliament enacted a law granting executive powers on any subject within the domain of the NCTD, the executive power of the LG shall be modified to the extent provided in that law. The Centre was apparently looking at how world capitals are governed, like Washington DC, Berlin, Ottawa, etc. They extrapolated that the federal government usually has jurisdiction over key aspects of governance like infrastructure development and land use planning.
Another reason from the Centre’s point of view is that, during emergencies, the central government has the power to allocate and deploy resources efficiently in Delhi. A centralised approach would work better for the capital. From a security standpoint, it makes sense for the Centre to have control over Delhi’s administration for effective coordination and implementation of security measures.
COUNTERVIEW: Disregard for courts and federalism
The AAP has argued that the Centre has blatantly disregarded several court rulings. There’s the issue of timing. The Centre issued the ordinance late on a Friday night, right before the SC went on a six-week vacation. The AAP stated the Centre believes in absolute and consolidated power. With this ordinance, decisions will essentially be taken by the Centre’s bureaucrats. If there’s something they don’t like, the LG can reverse the decision.
From a Constitutional perspective, the ordinance is problematic. The Centre is misusing its power to sidestep parliamentary debate for political gains. The SC order stated the NCTD has legislative and executive power over ‘services’. Currently, there’s no specific Parliamentary legislation dealing with services. The constitution bench said collective responsibility is vital for parliamentary democracies.
Subjecting the Chief Minister to a veto by civil servants in the National Capital Civil Service Authority, the ordinance violates the collective responsibility principle. This applies irrespective of whether the legislature is of a state or Union Territory. Above all else, it is the Centre’s way of encroaching on the duly elected AAP government’s powers in Delhi. This has been set in motion since 2015 – when the BJP suffered its worst-ever defeat in the national capital.
- Centre issues ordinance on transfer, posting of Group A officers in Delhi, AAP cries foul – Deccan Herald
- The power struggle between Delhi and central government – Economic Times
- Delhi Govt Has Legislative Powers Over Services Except for Police, Public Order, Land: SC – The Wire
- Why Did Centre Bring Ordinance On Delhi Postings? Officers Cite 5 Reasons – NDTV
- Centre’s Ordinance not what Kejriwal wants. But Modi govt is acting well within its rights – The Print
- Union Govt’s Ordinance to Undo SC Ruling on AAP’s Control Over Services Violates Basic Structure – The Wire
- Modi govt’s GNCTD ordinance proof BJP still clueless on Delhi’s politics, AAP – The Print
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Centre is within its right concerning the ordinance on the Delhi government.
b) The Centre is not within its right concerning the ordinance on the Delhi government.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Policymaking That Is Insensitive to Consequences Has Become the Norm
For the Left:
Calibrated Exit of ₹2,000 Notes – A Timely Move
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Phasing out water tanks (Chandigarh) – Chandigarh is embarking on an ambitious endeavour to ensure a consistent and uninterrupted drinking water supply to its residents. The upcoming 24×7 Water Supply Project, slated for completion in 2024, aims to transform the city’s water distribution system by eliminating overhead tanks and effectively addressing the problem of leakages. Recognising the significance of an uninterrupted water supply for its citizens, the Chandigarh administration has set forth this comprehensive initiative to enhance the water infrastructure.
Why it matters: By eliminating overhead tanks, which have long been associated with distribution inefficiencies and water wastage, the project intends to optimise the supply chain and improve water management across the city. The authorities are keen on rectifying this problem by employing advanced techniques and modern technologies. The implementation of a 24×7 water supply system will significantly benefit the residents of Chandigarh.
Machilipatnam Port to be revamped soon (Andhra Pradesh) – In a significant step towards bolstering the state’s economic development, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has given approval to the construction work for the much-anticipated Machilipatnam Port. This strategic initiative aims to create new opportunities for trade and commerce, ultimately driving economic growth in the region. As a key component of the state government’s vision for progress, the Machilipatnam Port project holds immense potential to attract investments, facilitate maritime activities, and enhance connectivity with global markets. The revamp will cost the state a total of ₹5,156 crores.
Why it matters: With a focus on modern infrastructure and advanced facilities, the port project aims to provide a robust platform for trade and industry. It is expected to stimulate economic growth and create job opportunities and promote entrepreneurship in the region. Once operational, the port is poised to become a significant gateway for trade, boosting exports and imports and attracting major industries.
Kaushalya Mandir – an attraction (Chhattisgarh) – With its notable features, including a bridge, a 65-foot statue of Lord Ram, fountains, and lights, Chhattisgarh’s Kaushalya Mata Mandir located in Chandkhuri village near Raipur has become a bustling attraction. It is noteworthy that Kaushalya Mata Mandir is the only temple in the world dedicated to Lord Ram’s mother, Kaushalya. The temple holds significance as part of the Congress government’s ambitious Ram Van Gaman Paripath corridor, which connects all the sites where Lord Ram stayed during his exile.
Why it matters: As a nod to the legendary Ram Trail, the Kaushalya Mandir has attracted attention and generated enthusiasm among the masses. However, the BJP has exhibited discomfort in response to the growing popularity of the Kaushalya Mandir. The BJP has long portrayed itself as the representative and the controller of Ram for a long time now, and the fact that the Congress is earning public favour via the Hindu god is making it restless.
Geotourism destination (Rajasthan) – Rajasthan, known for its rich cultural heritage, is set to unveil a new gem in its tourism landscape—the Ramgarh Crater. The crater is expected to attract a huge number of geotourists to the area. The Ramgarh Crater has garnered attention for its distinct geological features, making it an attractive prospect for geotourism enthusiasts. This natural wonder is a result of a meteorite impact that occurred 600 million years ago, leaving behind a crater that now stands as a testament to the Earth’s ancient history.
Why it matters: India boasts three notable impact craters that have garnered popularity among tourists. Apart from Ramgarh Crater, the other two well-known craters are Lonar Crater in Maharashtra and Dhala Crater in Madhya Pradesh. The Ramgarh Crater has long been a fascinating location for geologists and researchers studying impact craters. In the near future, tourists will have the opportunity to visit this intriguing site and gain insights into its unique characteristics.
131-year-old school burns down (Meghalaya) – The Khasi Jaiñtia Presbyterian (KJP) Girls Higher Secondary School, a historic institution in Shillong, Meghalaya, suffered a devastating loss as a major fire engulfed the 131-year-old heritage building on Sunday morning. Thankfully, no casualties were reported in this incident. The adjoining hostel, which was fortunately spared from the flames, swiftly facilitated the relocation of its occupants to a safer location. Established in 1892, the school operates under the auspices of the Khasi Jaiñtia Presbyterian Church.
Why it matters: The incident occurred during a severe power outage around 2:30 am that had affected the entire capital city, delaying the arrival of the fire and emergency service teams to the scene. Additionally, the presence of narrow and challenging roads posed significant obstacles, hindering the firefighting efforts aimed at containing and minimising the extent of the damage caused by the flames. Chief Minister Conrad Sangma announced a financial aid of ₹1 crore for the restoration of the school.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
27,000 – The TCS 10K marathon in Bengaluru saw the participation of over 27,000 runners.