The Delhi High Court today ruled that the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Delhi has primacy over its elected chief minister in administrative, especially the matters related with land, law and order and high level bureaucratic appointments from the central pool.
The High Court bench headed by its chief justice also ruled that the L-G is not bound by advice of the council of ministers in Delhi and the Delhi government must convey its decisions to him as well should take his approval.
As expected, the Aam Aadmi Party has rejected the decision with Manish Sisodia saying that though the AAP respects the High Court decision, the party cannot accept it, and will appeal in the Supreme Court against it. The High Court essentially ruled that Delhi is a union territory. But Sisodia says Delhi is in a special category as it is both – a union territory as well as it has an elected legislature – and therefore needs a different, special treatment.
Yes, Delhi has a special status and needs a special treatment. But that is exactly what makes AAP’s stand weaker here.
Due to unique nature of Delhi, being a city-state and the national capital of India, it is governed by different set of laws than other Union Territories including Puducherry. The different set of laws derive from the Indian Constitution, different provisions of the GNCTD Act and the Transaction of Business rules and the Union Government has a serious stake in running it.
And that it does through its representative, the Lieutenant-Governor.
Many important administrative aspects of Delhi including its law and order, security apparatus and lands are with the Union Government. Delhi Police and Delhi Development Authority are not under the Delhi CM. All three municipal corporations of Delhi are ruled by the BJP.
Everyone knows the Centre cannot give full statehood to Delhi, cannot give Delhi Police under Delhi government and cannot leave the subject of land to the state government in a state that is also the National Capital of India. Even Sheila Dikshit, Kejriwal’s predecessor, could not achieve full statehood or could not get Delhi Police under her control even if she had three full terms in office and even if Congress led the Union Government from 2004 to 2014.
Delhi is a half state and is also the most important Indian city where people of national and international importance reside and the Delhi Police and its local intelligence apparatus form the important outer layer of security. The Union Government has its many important offices here including the high level command centres of our security forces. It needs to maintain and develop infrastructure for them. It needs people who can act as bridge – the communication conduits between the Union Government and the Delhi Government. The bureaucrats fit here. Any unilateral control of them would compromise this channel. That is why the pragmatic approach to run this city-state lies is in reconciliation within the democratic norms.
Delhi’s ruling politicians and bureaucrats, so far, have found a mid-way to get out of the situation arising out of this segregation of responsibilities – of two power centres in the Capital. Even Tejendra Khanna, the previous L-G, was not a titular head even if Congress had governments, both in Delhi and at Union level. We all know the stories of his and Sheila Dikshit’s rivalries.
And Delhi has to be governed like that, with an approach to take everyone on board, even if it means ceding some political ground to the Lieutenant-Governor.
Kejriwal wants to change that. He wants supremacy of his elected government. He wants Delhi Police under his control. He wants Delhi to be recognized as full state. During his previous term of 49 days, he even sat on a protest for it. And the ongoing episode of controversial spats with the Delhi L-G has its origin in his such aspirations.
The confrontationist approach will not work in a democracy. Kejriwal needs a practical approach. He needs to work with the Union Government for the development of Delhi to consolidate his gains first. Instead, he has chosen confrontation – closing the doors. He is indulging in a fight that he cannot win. He is indulging in a fight that is ethically not right.
The controversy that began with the appointment of Shakuntala Gamlin, the former acting secretary of Delhi, will see its conclusion in the Supreme Court now as the AAP made its intent clear today.
That may be a blessing in disguise because laws governing Delhi presents a shady, grey area that has divided even the Constitutional experts. The top court ruling in that case would be the final word then.