New Delhi: Seventy six former civil servants of the All India Services and Central Services have released a statement condemning the Centre’s action of subordinating the executive power of the elected government in Delhi by a recent constitutional amendment.
The controversial bill that seeks to clarify that the “government” in Delhi means the “Lieutenant Governor” was passed by Lok Sabha on March 22 amidst strong opposition from the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, both of whom had said that the legislation was “unconstitutional”.
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, the statement notes, has negated relevant portions of the constitution, like Article 239 AA , without amending the constitution.
Noting that there is no justification in concentrating powers of governance in the Centre with the logic that Delhi is the national capital, the writers observe that the move deprives Delhi’s citizens of the right to govern themselves.
The former civil servants expressed deep concerned that the Act does not consider the sanctity of constitutional provisions and their interpretation by the Supreme Court but instead makes “mockery” of them.
The writers urged the Supreme Court to take note of the matter and declare the Act unconstitutional.
The full statement is given below:
We are a group of former civil servants of the All India Services and Central Services who have worked for decades with the Central and State Governments. As a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but are committed to the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution of India.
In India’s democracy, we have adopted a republican structure and the Westminster model, in which the Governor is a titular head, acting on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. This constitutionally mandated structure has been repeatedly upheld and endorsed by the Honourable Supreme Court. That the legislature is supreme within its functional powers is a cardinal federal principle. Elected representatives link the will of the people with that of the Government, regardless of whether citizens live in a State or a Union Territory.
The demand for full Statehood for Delhi has been consistently championed by all political parties, even though it is a National Capital Territory that may necessitate differential treatment. That led to the insertion of Article 239 AA into the Constitution of India, establishing an elected legislature for Delhi. Ambiguities in the interpretation of Article 239 AA have been clarified by the Honourable Supreme Court in its Constitution Bench judgment of 4th July 2018 (Govt. Of NCT of Delhi vs. Union of India)
The opening lines of Article 239 AA states, “The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly.” Interpreting the scope of this provision, the Honourable Supreme Court ruled that “the Lieutenant Governor has not been entrusted with any independent decision making power. He has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers or he is bound to implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him” (Para 277).
However, the recently enacted GNCTD (Amendment) Act 2021, strikes at the root of these principles and renders null the democratic right of the citizens of Delhi.
The Statements and Objectives of the Act states; “It further seeks to ensure that the Lieutenant Governor is necessarily granted an opportunity to exercise the power entrusted to him under proviso to clause (4) of article 239AA of the Constitution, in select category of cases and also to make rules in matters which incidentally encroach upon matters falling outside the purview of the Legislative Assembly.”
First, a new sub-section has been added to Section 21 of the GNCTD Act, changing the definition of the ‘Government’ to mean the ‘Lieutenant Governor.’ This provision appears to have turned parliamentary democracy on its head.
Second, Section 33 of the act, which relates to “conduct of its business” states that the State legislature can enact rules “which shall not be inconsistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the House of the People“. All State legislatures have the right to frame their own rules; indeed, the rules of the Delhi Assembly are nearly identical with those of the UP Assembly. Even the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Rules are not identical.
Third, Section 44 of the Act now states that before taking any executive action, the elected government shall have to take prior permission of the Lieutenant Governor, even in matters in which the Assembly has the right to make laws. This is in direct contravention of the Supreme Court’s judgment, where it stated; “A conjoint reading of clauses (3) (a) and (4) of Article 239AA, divulges that the executive power of the Government of NCTD is co-extensive with the legislative power of the Delhi Legislative Assembly and accordingly, the executive power of the Council of Ministers of Delhi spans over all subjects in the Concurrent list and all, but three excluded subjects, in the State List.” (para 277(XV)).
By curtailing the powers of the Delhi Assembly and subordinating the executive power of the elected government to the Lieutenant Governor, Parliament has negated the provisions of Article 239 AA of the Constitution without amending the Constitution, but merely through amendments to the GNCTD Act. This is an unfortunate move and bad in law. It deprives Delhi’s citizens of the right to govern themselves in matters such as health, education, water, power, electric supply and roads. There is no justification to concentrate all powers of governance in the Union Government merely because Delhi is the country’s capital. This move will not only paralyse governance in Delhi, much to the detriment of public interest, but also have grave repercussions on how federal governance is carried out in India.
We are deeply concerned that Parliament should pass a law which appears to make a mockery of constitutional provisions and their interpretation by the Supreme Court. We recognise that the same strategy of ramming through changes in law, with no consultation with the legislature or discussion with other political parties, was gone through when Article 370 was abrogated with respect to Jammu and Kashmir. We fear that a pattern is being established by which similar strategies could be adopted to destroy the federal principles on the basis of which India’s governance has been structured. The dangers of unilateral decision-making to establish a culture of unitary politics will put federal democracy in danger. This would violate the basic structure of the Constitution.
We sincerely hope that the Honourable Supreme Court, taking note of the fact that this law violates their own order, will declare it unconstitutional and restore the status quo ante.
The following are the statement’s signatories.
|S.P. Ambrose||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI|
|Anand Arni||R&AW (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|J.L. Bajaj||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Administrative Reforms and Decentralisation Commission, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh|
|G. Balachandhran||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|Vappala Balachandran||IPS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|Gopalan Balagopal||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Coal, GoI|
|Rana Banerji||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), GoI|
|Aurobindo Behera||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha|
|Madhu Bhaduri||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Portugal|
|Ravi Budhiraja||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI|
|Sundar Burra||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|Rachel Chatterjee||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh|
|Gurjit Singh Cheema||IAS (Retd.)||Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab|
|Anna Dani||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|Vibha Puri Das||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI|
|P.R. Dasgupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI|
|Pradeep K. Deb||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI|
|Nitin Desai||IES (Retd.)||Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI|
|M.G. Devasahayam||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana|
|Sushil Dubey||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Sweden|
|A.S. Dulat||IPS (Retd.)||Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI|
|K.P. Fabian||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Italy|
|Prabhu Ghate||IAS (Retd.)||Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI|
|Gourisankar Ghosh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI|
|S.K. Guha||IAS (Retd.)||Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI|
|H.S. Gujral||IFoS (Retd.)||Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab|
|Meena Gupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI|
|Wajahat Habibullah||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner|
|Siraj Hussain||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI|
|Kamal Jaswal||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI|
|Vinod C. Khanna||IFS (Retd.)||Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI|
|Ajai Kumar||IFoS (Retd.)||Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI|
|Ish Kumar||IPS (Retd.)||Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission|
|Sudhir Kumar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal|
|P.K. Lahiri||IAS (Retd.)||Former ED, Asian Development Bank & Former Revenue Secretary, GoI|
|B.B. Mahajan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI|
|Harsh Mander||IAS (Retd.)||Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|Amitabh Mathur||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|Lalit Mathur||IAS (Retd.)||Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI|
|Aditi Mehta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan|
|Avinash Mohananey||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim|
|Deb Mukharji||IFS (Retd.)||Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal|
|Shiv Shankar Mukherjee||IFS (Retd.)||Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom|
|Nagalsamy||IA&AS (Retd.)||Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala|
|Surendra Nath||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|P. Joy Oommen||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh|
|Amitabha Pande||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI|
|Alok Perti||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI|
|R. Poornalingam||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI|
|Rajesh Prasad||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to the Netherlands|
|R.M. Premkumar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|T.R. Raghunandan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI|
|N.K. Raghupathy||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI|
|V.P. Raja||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission|
|C. Babu Rajeev||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, GoI|
|Vijaya Latha Reddy||IFS (Retd.)||Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI|
|Aruna Roy||IAS (Resigned)|
|A.K. Samanta||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal|
|Deepak Sanan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh|
|G. Sankaran||IC&CES (Retd.)||Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal|
|S. Satyabhama||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI|
|N.C. Saxena||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI|
|Ardhendu Sen||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|Abhijit Sengupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI|
|Aftab Seth||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Japan|
|Ashok Kumar Sharma||IFoS (Retd.)||Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat|
|Ashok Kumar Sharma||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia|
|Navrekha Sharma||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Indonesia|
|Raju Sharma||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh|
|Tirlochan Singh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI|
|Jawhar Sircar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati|
|Thanksy Thekkekera||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|P.S.S. Thomas||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission|
|Hindal Tyabji||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir|
|Ramani Venkatesan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra|