People of Delhi elected a govt, not a Centre's proxy like L-G Najeeb Jung
The Delhi High Court's order on the powers of the Council of Ministers vis-a-vis Lieutenant Governor of Delhi has created a situation which has turned democracy on its head and made Najeeb Jung feel that he is the sovereign monarch of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
He has presumed that he is a medieval king for whom a democratically elected Assembly and a Council of Ministers have no meaning. He has gone to the extent of saying that the Delhi Assembly should be scrapped. Can there be anything more dangerous than an unelected person defying the "will of the people", by presuming that he can disband a duly elected Assembly?
What the Constitution says
One can understand that Delhi is not a full state. Therefore, it does not have the same powers as the other states. But under the 69th Constitutional amendment, an Assembly has been created, a Council of Ministers is formed from the duly elected people's representatives and every five years elections are held to choose a government.
It can be well understood that given a peculiar situation, the powers related to law and order, police and land have been vested in the L-G. As per the business transaction rules, in case of any disagreement between the Cabinet and the L-G, the matter will be referred to the President of India and his dictates will be final.
It is given that other than the three above mentioned subjects, for the rest of the competencies, the Assembly will be supreme and the L-G will execute his powers with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. But now the Delhi High Court in its wisdom has pronounced that the L-G is not bound by the advice of the Cabinet. The matter is pending before the Supreme Court but the L-G seems to be in a great hurry. His restlessness seems to be political in nature, rather than driven by a desire to uphold constitutional norms.
The founders of our Constitution might not have foreseen a situation like this but they had a premonition about similar eventualities.
When it was being debated whether a Governor of a state should be appointed or elected, they decided in favour of the former. The idea was that two elected executives will create two power centres and the administration will come to a halt. It was decided that the real power would rest with the democratically elected leader, that is the chief minister, and the Governor would work under the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
This arrangement was not only to avoid a friction between the two constitutional authorities but also to reflect the true spirit of democracy. In a democracy people are supreme, they express their will through elections and choose their representatives to rule for them.
The Council of Ministers is accountable to the people through the Assembly. An unelected governor is not accountable to the people; he/she does not have to contest elections; and does not reflect the will of the people. So in a democracy such appointees can not be trusted to rule over the democratically elected representatives, despite being the constitutional head of the state.
It was with this perspective that the Constituent Assembly underlined the role of the Governor. It was said, "When the whole of the executive power is vested in the council of ministers, if there is another person who believes that he has got the backing of the province behind him and therefore he can come forward and intervene in the governance of the province, it would really amount to a surrender of democracy."
One can argue that Delhi is not a full state and the L-G is not simply a rubber stamp. But then Delhi is not like a centrally administrated unit like Chandigarh either. It has an Assembly, elections do happen regularly and the CM is not appointed but is an elected representative of the people. The very fact that elections are held, it can not be treated like a mini-burrough of the central government and the Lt Governor can't assume the powers of the elected executive. The spirit of the Constituent Assembly debate will apply here in Delhi also over the role of the L-G.
The Constituent Assembly debate underlines, "He should be a more a detached figure ... Who would naturally co-operate fully with the government in carrying out its policy and yet represent before the public something above politics". Can we say the same thing about the conduct of Delhi's Lieutenant Governor Mr Najeeb Jung? Of course not. He has neither been "detached" as desired by the Constituent Assembly nor "above politics". He has been adversarial from day one.
Acting at Centre's behest
This behaviour intensified after the 2015 Assembly elections as he appeared to act completely at the behest of the Centre, ruled by Narendra Modi. Every order passed by the AAP government has been declared null and void. The Anti-Corruption Bureau which was with the Delhi government for the last 40 years was forcibly taken away overnight, that too with the help of para-military forces. The "services" department which is responsible for the appointment and transfer of bureaucrats, was told not to report to the Delhi government but to him.
He did not let the CM have a chief secretary of his choice. As many as 19 bills passed by the Delhi Assembly were stalled for more than six months to a year by his office, including the Lokpal Bill, MLAs' salary bill, and office of profit Bill . He also did not let the AAP government appoint 20,000 teachers in government schools. There are also rumours that senior bureaucrats are being told not to cooperate with the AAP government.
Perhaps it is no coincidence, that he is one of the few appointees of the Congress government who has not resigned or been sacked by the Centre. Many other governors have suffered the wrath of the Modi government.
I am not going into his past when he was an IAS officer and resigned after the Panna-Mukta petroleum scam , which the CBI was investigating. It is also not my concern that he had worked for Reliance. But it is certainly a matter of concern for me that during one year of President's Rule under him that the investigation into the DDCA scam, in which finance minister Arun Jaitley is under the scanner, was scuttled.
He seems to be playing a dangerous game of undermining the spirit of the will of the people. He might survive as the L-G but how will he be remembered in history? Delhi doesn't need a careers bureaucrat, but a true upholder of the Constitution, who understands and respects the meaning of a duly elected Assembly.
The writer is a spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party.