Partial statehood, Delhi’s peculiar constitutional situation, has posed challenges before every government that has ruled the national capital since 1993, the year an elected Vidhan Sabha was reinstated in Delhi. Central to this is the prickly issue of an elected government being forced to share powers with a non-elected Lieutenant Governor. So it is that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), armed with a sweeping mandate to govern Delhi and with a newfound sense of assertiveness, now finds itself in an almighty tussle with the LG over the appointment of an Acting Chief Secretary. This may appear to be a relatively minor issue, but at its heart is an attempt to make sense of the laws that define the issue of who runs Delhi. Article 239 (AA and AB) of the Constitution appears to grant the LG more discretionary powers than Governors in other States. Clause 4 of this Article says that there shall be a Council of Ministers in Delhi to aid and advise the LG “except in so far as he is, by or under any law, required to act in his discretion”. There is no specific provision, however, for the appointment of a Chief Secretary. Under the clause, should the LG have a difference of opinion with his Ministers the matter should be referred to the President. Pending a decision by the President, the LG can take immediate action if, in his opinion, the matter is urgent. But according to the Transaction of Business Rules for the Delhi government, the process of initiating the appointment of a Chief Secretary has to be done by the Council of Ministers. No such move was initiated in this particular instance, and so there should have been no difference of opinion to begin with.
This is a significant grey area, and the real surprise is that it has taken this long for a proper debate on it to happen. Partial statehood, by its very premise, involves some compromises in governance. The big political parties are able to deal with this by going through the ‘right channels’ to prevent a given situation from escalating. It helped that for several years Delhi was ruled by the same party that was in power at the Centre. Such a situation would never work for the AAP, which simply does not do political diplomacy. Delhi is also the only State the party governs, and it is understandably keen to push for more control for itself. Inevitably, things have taken an ugly turn with various civil servants caught in the crossfire, a sense of fear gripping the administration and many officers wondering who to listen to. It is imperative that the rules and laws governing Delhi are reviewed and areas of potential overreach by the Central government are eliminated quickly enough. Failure to do so could lead to a situation where government in the national capital is thrown into a state of flux again.
Please follow and like us: