• Meghna Singh

The National Capital Territory Bill

Introduction

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021 was passed on 29th March,2021. The Act aims to amend the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 which provided for a legislative assembly in Delhi-complete with a Council of Ministers as well as independence of governance.


What is the NCT Act 2021?

In its essence, the law aims to provide a structure and clarity as to what proposals require the approval of the Lieutenant Governor and also do away with the discrepancies in the division of powers between the Assembly and the Governor.


The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021 or NCT Act, 2021 redefines the powers and responsibilities of the Lieutenant-Governor and the Legislative Assembly.


The main provisions of the Act are as follows: -

  1. The Act states that the term” government” will now essentially mean the Lieutenant Government with regards to Delhi.

  2. The opinion of the Lieutenant Governor is a must before taking of any executive actions by the city’s government.

  3. The Governor is given the power to send a Bill to the Centre if he/ she does not agree with the elected government.

  4. The Act prohibits the assembly from making rules that would allow itself and its committees to consider matters of every day administration.

  5. The Act also restricts the Legislative Assembly from undertaking any enquiry in relation to administrative and other decisions. Further, any provision in force currently, having the above said effect will automatically become void.

  6. The Bill also provides that the Rules of Procedure of the Legislative Assembly must be consistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Lok Sabha.



Implications


Centre’s Stand

The Union Government has justified the Act by arguing that the Amendments would lead to transparency and clarity in governance in the territory of Delhi and bring about enhanced public accountability. They have further said that it would remove the ambiguities that existed in the previous Law.


The Backlash

Nonetheless, the Act has managed to receive flak from almost all quarters. From Opposition to former advocates, the criticism has been unanimous.

“A dark day for Indian Democracy” - Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on the passing of NCT Bill

The following are the grounds on which the it has been criticized: -

  1. Every legislature has the right to examine the decisions of the Executive; it forms a part of the relationship between the two as well as is one of the most important tools of a Parliamentary system of governance. The Act effectively curbs this power by nullifying the existence of committees that are set up for taking up enquiries.

  2. The increase in the powers of the Lieutenant Governor and requirement of his approval before taking any executive actions hobbles the elected government and makes its decisions ineffective as there is no time limit within which the L-G has to give his opinions.

  3. The provision stating that the Rules of Procedure of the Delhi Assembly are to be the same as Lok Sabha is preposterous beyond measure as it is a sacred and inherent right of each legislature to have the freedom to establish its own Rules of Procedure.


Political Scenario

The enormity of the political backlash against this Act can be gauged from the fact that The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha amid a walkout by the Opposition. It is not only being seen as a measure to curb the power of the Assembly, but if seen through a darker lens it has the connotations of being a move that hampers the power of the current ruling party to do good for the Capital-which is a sure shot way to earn brownie points with the people and create goodwill- and therefore ruin their chances of being elected again.


All this comes at a time when the political race is already tense what with Bengal and Assam the hotbeds of the struggle for power and the fact that the people of Delhi have repeatedly mandated their preference for the current government.



Conclusion

The collective vehemence with which the Act is being opposed is evidence to the differences of opinion that it has managed to ignite. On one hand, it aims to overcome the discrepancies by establishing a uniform system of administration; and on the other hand, it is bringing the federal nature of the states into a jeopardy. Only time will tell whether the Law is successful or unsuccessful, whether it swims or sinks.



~ Meghna Singh

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