Read Editorial with D2G – Ep 526
Law and Control
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Meanings are given in BOLD
Less than 10 days after it was introduced in the Lok Sabha, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 has got the approval of both Houses of Parliament. Surely, a piece of legislation that proposes far-reaching changes in the National Capital Territory’s administration, drastically (extremely; very) undermines (lessen the effectiveness, power, or ability of, especially gradually or insidiously) the powers of Delhi’s elected government and virtually upturns a landmark Supreme Court verdict, warranted a longer journey in both Houses.
It required thorough deliberation (long and careful consideration or discussion), even referral (an act of referring someone or something for consultation, review, or further action) to a Select Committee, as demanded by members of the Opposition. That this did not happen speaks of the hubris ( excessive pride or self-confidence) of the central government, and draws attention, again, to its disturbing tendency of using its majority to steamroll (an oppressive and relentless power or force) contentious (causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial) Bills — the farm laws, just before this — through Parliament.
It also shines light on the volte face by the BJP, whose championing of Delhi’s quest for statehood dates back to at least 25 years. In fact, as Home Minister, LK Advani introduced the Delhi State Bill in Parliament in 2003. Is it not revanchism (a policy of seeking to retaliate, especially to recover lost territory) that when relegated (assign an inferior rank or position to) to a distant (far away in space or time) runner-up in two successive elections to the Delhi assembly, the BJP uses its majority at the Centre to push legislation that requires Delhi’s AAP government to seek the L-G’s sanction for every administrative action?
Delhi’s special position as the country’s capital requires a bold re-imagination of the federal contract that currently determines its executive and legislative boundaries. On paper, that contract has been skewed (suddenly change direction or position) against the elected government. But over a substantial (of considerable importance, size, or worth) period in the past 20 years, the Centre, its representative, the L-G, and the Delhi government seemed to have developed a working relationship, indeed a partnership at times, whose benefits continue to be felt by the city’s residents — the conversion of the city’s public transport fleet (a number of vehicles or aircraft operating together or under the same ownership) to the environment-friendly CNG, introduction of private players in the power sector, and the Metro.
It is true that AAP’s advent (the arrival of a notable person or thing) on the city’s political scene, its shrill ((especially of a complaint or demand) loud and forceful) political pitch and its preference for agitational (relating to or involving public demonstrations) politics over patient negotiations led to a setback in the evolving concord (agreement between words in gender, number, case, person, or any other grammatical category which affects the forms of the words) between the Centre and the elected government. However, the Supreme Court verdict of 2018 that removed the ambiguities (the quality of being open to more than one interpretation; inexactness) of the powers of Delhi’s L-G vis-à-vis its council of ministers inaugurated a period of relative calm.
The apex court’s ruling that the elected government has pre-eminence on all matters other than police, public order and land enabled AAP to turn its welfarist agenda into policies — mechanisation of the sewage system, free bus rides to women, free electricity to those using less than 200 units of power. Except on a few occasions, the L-G and the Delhi government were on the same page during the critical period of the pandemic last year.The new law, by making Delhi’s L-G synonymous with the city’s government, will reverse the progress made in the past 20 years in the NCT’s quest for statehood, and also be bad news for federalism (the federal principle or system of government). The court must step in, and apply to the law the constitutionality (the quality of being in accordance with a political constitution) test.