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How NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021 will improve governance in Delhi?

NCT Amendment Act Delhi governance
NCT of Delhi is the most important city of the largest democracy of the world. This cannot and should not be managed based on shallow political considerations. 

The new Act amends the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991.  The Act provides a framework for the functioning of the Legislative Assembly and the government of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi.  The Act amends certain powers and responsibilities of the Legislative Assembly and the Lieutenant Governor to ensure effective governance of the Capital region of India. The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021 was passed by the Parliaments and signed by the Hon’ble President of India.

Decisions without any accountability and responsibility:

To ensure good governance, especially when public money and public welfare is involved, there is a need to have a strong and transparent system called ‘maker and checker’ system. Let me share some of the following examples which will explain why Delhi was in need of a better governance structure to ensure accountability and responsibility in public as well as national interest.

  • On 26th Jan 2021, the whole world witnessed the lawlessness which was created in the national capital during the Republic day parade by anti-social elements. Delhi police always used DTC buses to ensure mass movement of police personnel and to use buses to secure Delhi from anti-social elements and rioters. Amid the ongoing agitation and when security arrangements were reviewed to secure Delhi, the Delhi Transport Department of State Government has instructed the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) to demand the return of 576 buses that were provided to Delhi Police, when police was busy in securing Delhi. According to an official from the Transport Department, all these buses are being used by security agencies to protect Delhi from the antisocial and criminal elements in the name of farmers’ protest.This decision was taken to boost the political ambition of the ruling party at the cost of security of citizens of Delhi.
  • In Dec. 2015, a bill was passed in Delhi Assembly to increase the salaries of the MLAs by 400% without any logical formula or criteria.  According to the Bill passed by Delhi assembly, the basic monthly salary of Delhi MLAs and ministers is all set to go up by a whopping 400 per cent besides significant hike in a slew of allowances with the assembly today approving a bill to effect the increase considering rising cost of living.
  • In 2015-16, the Delhi government had initially allocated Rs 522 crore to the Directorate of Information & Publicity. This amount allocated publicity was more than the total central assistance for Delhi or Delhi’s share in central taxes or more than capital receipt of the state government. What was the logic of allocating such a huge publicity budget for a city state? What was the motive behind this? Even large corporations do not spend this much money for their branding of products countrywide. Was there anyone to question such decisions? Why was taxpayers money taken from granted as a personal asset by people in power? Ruling party can always use social media to convey their message to educated people of Delhi. It means Delhi was at mercy of few individuals who were mishandling public money.
  • In March 2017, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India noted that the Kejriwal government had spent Rs 29 crore from public funds on advertisements outside Delhi in 2015. What was the motive behind this waste, other than self glory in Punjab for elections. Is this logical and sensible to do such things? Why was there no system to check such illogical expenditures?
  • The CAG report also pulled up the AAP administration for being in violation of Supreme Court guidelines that call for government ads to be politically neutral and not glorify politicians. Kejriwal-led AAP party for allegedly splurging tax-payers money on advertisements that too in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines, a committee appointed to look into irregularities directed  AAP to reimburse the sum of Rs 97 crore used.  In a country where sources are limited, no one should be allowed to use the tax-payers money for personal salary increase, perks and personal glory on streets. Why was there no system to check such waste of tax-payers money and also why non one is there to enforce Hon’ble Supreme Court guidelines on a government willing to misuse its political powers and wasting tax-payers money for political gains?
  • In August 2019, 50,000 people submitted petitions to Kejriwal, demanding a long-pending state food commission. The petitions were gathered under a people’s movement tiled ‘Campaign against hunger and malnutrition’ by several city-based organisations working for child rights, Following the deaths of the three minor girls who died of starvation in a room in a three-story building in an urban slum in East Delhi, the petitioners have demanded the constitution of a state food commission in Delhi, which has been pending with the government since the National Food Security (NFS) Act, 2013 came into force. The Act provides transparency and accountability, under which a food state commission has to be set up in each state for grievance redressal. But the AAP government which came in power in 2015 on anti-corruption movement failed in ensuring this mandatory requirement under the law.
  • Free electricity, free water and free rides without any economic criteria at the cost of honest taxpayer money for political reasons is also sending a wrong message to honest tax payers of the country and corrupting the whole political space. In place of creating employment opportunities and uplifting the people out of poverty, offering free doles, especially to those who can afford to pay, is also spreading the concept of corruption and responsibilities in the society. There are many such examples.
 

Why is good governance of NCT of Delhi vital?

Coming back to the issue of governance of the national capital region of the world's largest democracy, it is vital that there must be proper security and no one should be allowed to interfere in that because Delhi is also home of hundreds of foreign diplomats and dignitaries, place of President House, Parliament, headquarters of defence forces, other vital institutions and infrastructures. Delhi also hosts events for many heads of the nations from all over the world every year. 

National capital must have its own dignity, a secure system and proper maintenance in line with the national agenda. National capital should not appear like a barricaded city or city of hoarding of any individual who is neither a pride of a nation nor a national leader who is welcoming the foreign guests on various occasions. Any wrong news about Delhi brings a bad image to India. Therefore it is essential to enforce good governance for Delhi. 

Can Delhi afford a governance based on narrow political considerations only? How long governance should continue without checks and balances impacting damaging national security and wasting tax-payers money?

 

What are the provisions of the new National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act’2021?

According to the Constitution of India under Article 239AA(1) As from the date of commencement of the Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991, the Union territory of Delhi shall be called the National Capital Territory of Delhi (hereafter in this Part referred to as the National Capital Territory) and the administrator thereof appointed under article 239 shall be designated as the Lieutenant Governor. In the recent past the interpretation of this Article was challenged in court. This has created bitterness in the administration of Delhi state because of political reasons. This was challenged and there were various interpretations spending upon political sides and personality issues of the leaders governing Delhi. 

Fortunately, there was safeguard built into the Constitution, but it was frequently ignored. According to the Constitution of India under Article 239AA(4) dealing with Special provisions with respect to Delhi, says, provided that in the case of difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and his Ministers on any matter, the Lieutenant Governor shall refer it to the President for decision and act according to the decision given thereon by the President and pending such decision it shall be competent for the Lieutenant Governor in any case where the matter, in his opinion, is so urgent that it is necessary for him to take immediate action, to take such action or to give such direction in the matter as he deems necessary. 

Now the new law is passed by the parliament, it has cleared the confusion related to the role and responsibilities of various power centers of Delhi.

 

Following provisions in the new Act to avoid the confusion:

Rules of Procedure of the Assembly: The Act allows the Legislative Assembly to make Rules to regulate the procedure and conduct of business in the Assembly.  The Bill provides that such Rules must be consistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha. This is important to ensure consistency and accountability in the governance of the National Capital region of Delhi.

Restriction on laws passed by the Assembly: The Act provides that the term “government” referred to in any law made by the Legislative Assembly will imply Lieutenant Governor (LG). This will ensure that no law is made contrary to the Constitutional provisions of India because LG is appointed by the President of India under the constitution of India. LG can also seek guidance from the President in matters of importance..

Assent to Bills: The Act requires the LG to reserve certain Bills passed by the Legislative Assembly for the consideration of the President.  These Bills are those: 

  1. which may diminish the powers of the High Court of Delhi,
  2. which the President may direct to be reserved,
  3. dealing with the salaries and allowances of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and members of the Assembly and the Ministers, or
  4. relating to official languages of the Assembly or the NCT of Delhi.
The Act requires the LG to also reserve those Bills for the President which incidentally cover any of the matters outside the purview of the powers of the Legislative Assembly.

This provision will ensure that no such incidences mentioned above are not repeated for political considerations.

Inquiry by the Assembly into administrative decisions: The Act prohibits the Legislative Assembly from making any rule to enable itself or its Committees to: 

  1. consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the NCT of Delhi
  2. conduct any inquiry in relation to administrative decisions.
Further, the Act provides that all such rules made before its enactment will be void.

This provision is vital because the decision to withdraw the DTC buses when Delhi was attacked by rioters and not cooperating due to political reasons with the national government on various security and administrative matters when violence was erupted in the National Capital Region is a serious matter.

LG’s opinion for executive actions: The Act specifies that all executive action by the government, whether taken on the advice of the Ministers or otherwise, must be taken in the name of the LG.The Act adds that on certain matters, as specified by the LG, his opinion must be obtained before taking any executive action on the decisions of the Minister/ Council of Ministers. This provision is vital to ensure that constitutional provisions are ensured and there is no deviation from the constitutional provisions.

Citizens of Delhi are expecting good governance:

If any state government is keen to work in the interest of the citizens of the National Capital Region, there are no restrictions in the lawmaking process for the State Assembly and administration of various departments of NCT, if these decisions are based on the principles of good governance in a transparent manner with proper justification and accountability. It will be difficult for any LG to stop the law which is in the interest of the public and ensures good governance. LG will also be answerable, why is stopping the work which is in public interest. India is a vibrant democracy and LG will have to provide proper and logical justification for holding back the decision taken by the state legislative assembly or he has to agree to the logical decisions. Irrespective of the political party in power, the political class uses public funds and taxpayers money to push their political agenda. Hopefully, now there will be more accountability. 

Experience says, problems may still appear if decisions are politically motivated and there are attempts to use taxpayers money for political gains and state machinery for political purposes. Let us hope now focus should be on good governance, in place political ego clashes. To address this, India has a proper judicial system, if required. 

I am hopeful that Delhi will benefit with the new “Maker and Checker system” introduced via the new NCT (Amendment) Act’2021. Now both sides of the administration will have to demonstrate their commitment for good governance in action. Citizens of Delhi are watching.


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