By Gyan Pathak
Trespass is a word of disapproval. It is even illegal when one tries to enter into the areas over which other’s have legal rights. Usurpation of the legal rights, or even fundamental rights of the citizens, are generally executed by autocratic rulers acquiring those rights by getting new legislations passed in the legislature. Such an act is worst form of moral trespass, since it blocks all remedies for the victim.
The latest in the series of usurpation of rights of others by Modi government is introduction of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 on March 15 in the Lok Sabha. It is undemocratic, since it seeks to bring a democratically elected government under a selected appointee of the Union government; anti-federal because it throws to ruins the very concept of the ‘Republic of India’; and autocratic because the elected state government is made subservient to merely a Centre’s appointee working under the post of Lieutenant Governor (LG).
Delhi does not have full statehood, a demand that has never been met. The BJP spearheaded the movement demanding statehood for Delhi for its proper development. The Union government conceded the demand partially and Delhi became a Union Territory with an assembly in February 1992. Under the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, the democratically elected government was given certain powers to act independently though every action of the government was to be conveyed to the LG of Delhi.
Since Delhi is still a UT and not a state, the Lieutenant Governor is not equivalent to Governor or a State, and Chief Minister has not such powers as the Chief Minister of a state. This new arrangement has put several restrictions on the democratically elected government, and several important areas of administration such as law and order, land etc remained under the Union government. This hampered the development of the state and therefore the demand for a full statehood remained intact. The NCT Bill, 2021 has not only shattered the people’s dream of a full statehood, but also seeks to reduce the people and their elected government to merely a subservient to a government appointee.
Such a backsliding on democracy has been resorted to by the Union government because the politics the BJP led ruling establishment wanted to play was thwarted in the AAP ruled state. PM Modi’s charisma failed in the state not only in the assembly election of 2015, but also in 2020. The BJP had to face humiliating defeats in which Kejriwal’s AAP bagged nearly all the seats in the state. AAP is rising again and has recently rendered another humiliating defeat to the BJP in urban bodies’ bye election.
BJP is thus under the grip of a fear psychosis of losing even the urban bodies, which they are dominating since 2017, in 2022 election. Recently in the ongoing West Bengal election campaign, one of the BJP leaders have reminded us about ‘snake’ while likening himself to a deadly serpent and even threatened to bite the ruling TMC. It is in fear of being hurt, a snake bites, that all we know. Back in Delhi, the BJP had done the same thing to reign in AAP, by legal usurpation of the rights of the democratically elected government in the state, since the Modi government has been unable to do so in democratic elections.
The Modi government at the centre and the Kejriwal government in the state have never been on good terms, because of theirs being opposing political parties. Kejriwal’s spectacular success in health and education is in contrast to the dismal performance of the Modi government in these very two sectors. Clipping wings of the state government is therefore thought by the centre to be the best political course. They have been trying it since 2015 and consequently a legal battle was fought up to Supreme Court of India. In a 2018 verdict of the SC, a five-judge bench held that LG’s concurrence is not required on issues other than police, public order, and land. It however added that the decisions of the state government have to be communicated to the LG.
By introducing the NCT Amendment Bill, 2021, Modi government is trying to overturn the SC verdict. It is again unethical to divert the course of justice in the country. If Judiciary gives its decision in favour of the government, it is alright, but in case of adverse judgement they would be upturned by legislative amendments, is nothing less than autocratic approach. However, the objective stated in the bill gives the Centre’s reasoning that it seeks to achieve structural clarity in the conduct and business of the state government. It claimed that section 44 of the NCT Delhi Act 1991 had no clarity and no structural mechanism. There is also no clarity in the act as to what proposal or matters are required to be submitted to the LG before issuing orders. It is also claimed that the bill has been brought to give effect to the SC judgements of 2018, and 2019 relating to the structure of the governance in the NCT Delhi.
It would be an interesting reading to go through the Bill, which seeks to even amend the meaning of ‘government’ in new fashion. It says that the expression “government” referred to in any law to be made by the Legislative Assembly shall mean the Lieutenant Governor. The very definition is thus reduced the status of the state government and also the legislative assembly of the state which are nothing but representative entities of the democratic aspirations and the rights of the people of the state.
Further, widening of the discretionary powers of the LG over the Legislative Assembly of the state even in the matters where it is empowered to make laws is simply violation of the supremacy of the legislature, and putting it under an executive official. The two pillars of democracy – the judiciary and the legislatures – are thus undermined by the Bill. It also seeks to make it binding for the Council of Ministers of Delhi to seek opinion before a decision is implemented. The Legislative Assembly shall not make any rule to enable itself to consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the capital or conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions, the bill further states. If the bill is passed Delhi will be on the mercy of the Union Government through the LG, and democratically elected government of the state would be fully neutralized.
Such an attitude of the BJP government at the centre is thus a threat to all other states happened to be ruled by the opposition political parties. Jammu and Kashmir has already lost its statehood and split into two UTs. Delhi has become the next target. May be, we would see happening it to some other states in near future. (IPA Service)