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For the spirit of democracy

 Editorial |  2016-10-10 22:37:33.0  |  New Delhi

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s tirade against Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung on Saturday is a timely reminder of the costs the city-state's citizens have incurred from the Centre's constant interference. 

Kejriwal said the decisions that have been made by the Delhi government in the last one and a half years are being rendered “null and void”, leading to complete chaos. “This will have serious ramifications for the city, and it will send Delhi back by almost two years. But unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening in Delhi. If a few decisions related to public welfare were taken without informing him (LG), they should not be reversed. 

We have made many flyovers, now will they be demolished? We constructed 8,000 classrooms. Will they have to be demolished as well? Governance is a very serious business. Hence we must not let the people suffer anymore,” he said. 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. A few days after the High Court judgment, all government files concerning administrative decisions made by the AAP-led government without the explicit approval of the LG were sent to Raj Nivas (LG’s office).

By the end of the month, Jung’s office had issued another order, which proclaimed that the LG will be “the authority” for transfer and posting of IAS, DANICS (Delhi, Andaman Nicobar Island Civil Service) officers, all-India service officers and equivalent officers of Central Civil Services. For lower-level staff, it was either the Chief Secretary or Secretary (services).

“The LG may, in his discretion, obtain the views of the Chief Minister, wherever he deems it appropriate,” the order went on to read.  Does the elected Chief Minister’s office have no role in carrying out necessary administrative duties? Adding insult to injury, the LG soon constituted a three-member panel to examine over 400 files for “infirmities” and “irregularities” in critical decisions made by the government. 

The bureaucracy has stopped reporting to them. Elected ministers are hardly ever consulted or even informed about some of the key decisions made. Constant reminders to get critical administrative files back from the LG’s office have come to no avail. The LG’s overbearing presence has even jeopardised key welfare projects in the city. For example, in the middle of AAP’s flagship "Mohalla Clinic" project, the director-general of health services, Dr Tarun Seem, was recently ordered to quit, despite little justification. The LG seems hell-bent on negating all the work done by a democratically-elected government by implementing the court's order with retrospective effect.  The real victims of these actions will be the people of Delhi.  

Despite the Chief Minister’s pleas, senior bureaucrats have been transferred without the government’s knowledge. The list of top officials transferred without the Delhi government’s approval includes the PWD Secretary, the Industry Secretary, and the Managing ­Director of the Delhi State Industrial Development Corporation.

 Among the host of proclamations, the High Court said that it was not unconstitutional for the LG to exercise their powers on the appointment of bureaucrats. But an elected government must be allowed to choose its bureaucrats. Truth be told, the LG’s actions are not illegal. But his actions go against the spirit of the Constitution.

 In a democracy, elected representatives must hold the right to make important administrative decisions. If their decisions are found to be in contravention to the law, they can be taken to the court. 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 functions through the LG.  

The entire raison d’être of a Legislature is defeated when it possess little executive powers. If the Delhi government cannot appoint its officers and make important decisions, why have a democratically elected government at all? If an elected legislature is not vested with executive powers, elections to the Delhi Assembly seem rather pointless. Through its battle in the Apex Court, the AAP government is attempting to address this very anomaly.

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