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LG crosses the line yet again

Quoting a union home ministry order, which clearly undermines the position of the elected Aam Aadmi Party led government in Delhi, the Lieutenant Governor’s (LG) office on Wednesday claimed that the “Government” means the “Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory of Delhi” appointed by the President under Article 239 of the Constitution. According to news reports, this claim was made in a letter written by LG Najeeb Jung’s office to the chief minister’s office, where the former declared the appointment of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati <g data-gr-id="39">Maliwal</g> as “ultra vires”. Although the letter points out that “all statutory notifications for re-constitution of DCW in the past had the approval of the LG”, once again Jung has undermined the authority of a government that was emphatically elected by the people of Delhi earlier this year. 

In an obvious show of consternation, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal once again hit back at the LG. “How can a person call himself a government? This will lead to dictatorship in Delhi,” Kejriwal has said in a letter written to the LG. Recent news reports and opinion articles on the ongoing clash between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung have depicted an ugly picture of the state of governance in the national capital. Although, Kejriwal and his fellow party members could be accused of exaggeration, there is no doubt that by meddling with the civil servants and official appointments roster, Jung has yet again bypassed a democratically elected government. Beyond the politics and daily sound bytes, however, the AAP-led government is trying to address the lack of clarity involved in the political-administrative status of Delhi.

The questions being raised by the Delhi government are central to the basic ethos of federalism enshrined in our Constitution. Members from the AAP have argued that an elected government must have a say in its choice of bureaucrats and officials. The Lieutenant Governor, it argued, is supposed to act on the advice of the elected government. Therefore, can an executive appointee, which, in this case, is the Lieutenant Governor, overrule the representative government’s choice of key functionaries?  In the current scheme of things, the Union government does control land located within the vicinity of the national capital, besides matters involving policing and public order. 

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.  The entire <g data-gr-id="31">raison</g> <g data-gr-id="30">d’</g>être of a legislature is defeated when it possess no real executive powers. While the current ruling dispensation at the Centre continues preaching the spirit of “cooperative federalism”, its representative in Delhi seems keen on disrespecting it.  

Besides the spirit of federalism, the entire controversy surrounding the appointment of the DCW smells of partisan politics. In a tweet on Wednesday, <g data-gr-id="32">Maliwal</g> claimed that the DCW would have instituted an inquiry into the brutal murder of young woman at Anand <g data-gr-id="33">Parbhat</g> and that the police would have been asked to give details of all women who have complained about sexual harassment in the national capital. In light of such a heinous murder and the growing crime rate in the city, voices in the Aam Aadmi Party government have recently raised their pitch for greater control of the Delhi police. The Centre clearly seems to be in no mood to give an inch despite compelling evidence.
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