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Fixing an anomaly

 MPost |  2016-12-16 21:41:37.0  |  New Delhi

In an observation that may come as a relief to the Aam Aadmi Party, the Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that the Delhi government should have some powers to be able to function in a proper manner while hearing its plea against a Delhi High Court ruling from August. The High Court had upheld the Lieutenant Governor (LG) as the administrative head of the Delhi-National Capital Region. “An elected government should have some power to run. Otherwise, the government cannot function,” said the court. Reports indicate that the next hearing of the case is scheduled for January 18, 2017. Under the constitutional scheme of things, the council of ministers is required to give its advice to the lieutenant governor, argued the counsel for the AAP government. Unfortunately, the high court verdict had nullified this provision and pronounced the advice of the council of ministers as not binding upon the LG. If the ruling stands, the “elected government in Delhi cannot appoint the chief secretary or cannot even a class IV officer by itself,” the counsel argued. He had also sought a stay order on the high court’s decision to allow the Lieutenant Governor to appoint the three-member Shunglu committee, which was set up in August to examine 400 files on the decisions made by the AAP government. The current battle in court is a timely reminder of the costs the city-state's citizens have incurred from the Centre's constant interference. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has often reiterated the decisions that have been taken by the Delhi government in the last one and a half years are being rendered “null and void” due to the constant interference from the LG, who is working at the behest of the Centre. 

The public spat between the Delhi government and the LG, with the latter proclaiming his authority, has left the functioning of an elected government in a state of near paralysis. Jung’s authority in the national capital was established on August 4 when the Delhi High Court ruled that the Lieutenant Governor is the administrative head of the National Capital Region. The court dismissed AAP’s contention that the LG must act on the advice of the Delhi Cabinet. With the lone exception of appointing special public prosecutors, the chief minister cannot exercise his authority without the prying eyes of an overbearing executive appointee. To the uninitiated, the AAP government had moved the high court after the Ministry of Home Affairs had passed a notification on May 21 giving “unprecedented powers” to the Lieutenant Governor. The new document replaced an older one that was put in place in 1998. Earlier, the LG had to consult the chief minister of the region regarding matters related to public order, police and services. 

In a democracy, elected representatives must hold the right to take important administrative decisions. If their decisions are found to be in contravention of the law, they can be taken to the courts. Moreover, they would be held accountable for their actions in the next elections. Although the national capital has acquired the status of partial statehood with a state legislature, barely any executive business is conducted without the prying eyes of the Union government, which works through the LG.  The entire raison d’être of a legislature is defeated when it possess little executive powers. If an elected government is not vested with executive powers, elections to the Delhi Assembly seem rather pointless.

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