SC says Delhi L-G enjoys supremacy over state govt: Decoding Arvind Kejriwal-Anil Baijal tussle

When Anil Baijal took charge as Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi in December 2016, he was asked about his relationship with the AAP government.

"This is a speculative thing and I don't know how the relationship will improve. We will sit together and talk," Baijal had said at that time. And there is a very good reason why Baijal chose such a cautious answer to that question.

The Delhi government's ties with the L-G have been anything but amiable.

Ever since it came to power in February 2015, Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP has had troubles with the L-G. Everyone knows about the bitter relations between Kejriwal and Baijal's predecessor Najeeb Jung.

 SC says Delhi L-G enjoys supremacy over state govt: Decoding Arvind Kejriwal-Anil Baijal tussle

File image of Anil Baijal and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

Whether it was Jung annulling bureaucratic postings in New Delhi and claiming that all powers to appoint and transfer rested with him, or Kejriwal blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jung for CBI raiding the Chief Minister's Office, the Kejriwal-Jung tussle seemed to be never-ending.

And the Kejriwal-Baijal ties seem to be going the same way. On Thursday, the Supreme Court commenced a crucial hearing to determine whether the elected government or the L-G enjoys supremacy in the administration of the Union Territory of Delhi, observing that the constitutional scheme was prima facie tilted in favour of the L-G. However, Justice Chandrachud said that L-G cannot stultify a scheme by sitting over the files. Instead, he is bound to under Article 239AA to refer the matter to president in case of difference of opinion.

So why does the Delhi L-G have so many powers when there is a chief minister?

"The Supreme Court’s observations about the powers of the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi bring to the fore the tussle between the officer and the state government. However, Delhi is not the only example where the federal government has a say in the functioning of the capital. Washington, DC is another instance of a system where the federal government exerts authority," Milind Mhaske, project director at Praja Foundation (a non-partisan organisation working on urban governance), told Firstpost.

"There is a reason why such a system is put in place in many countries. The rationale for this is that the federal government should not face impediments while developing the city in a certain way. Further, the Centre wants public services to be of a certain level in Delhi, as a large number of dignitaries and government officials live there. Indeed, if Delhi had not been the capital city, it would not have received this level of investment in infrastructure and public services. The position of the L-G is to ensure the presence of the central government in running the affairs of the capital," Mhaske further said.

But he also stressed on the power and need for the state government.

"However, primarily, the L-G is answerable to the citizens of Delhi, not the prime minister who appointed him or her. There is a civilian population in Delhi whose rights and needs have to be taken care of. Policies and programmes for them need to be designed and run by the elected government. There should be mutual respect between the officer and the state government. As of now, this is not seen to be the case. There can be conflicts between the two power centres, but these conflicts need to be resolved within a certain framework. Political differences can exist, but they should not affect the smooth functioning of governance," Mhaske said.

"Primarily, the reasons that the Union government needs to have a say in the capital are security (law and order) and land. The important institutions of the government of the entire country are present in Delhi, and they need to be able to function in a stable and secure environment. Further, the Centre has a say in matters of land, in the form of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) which has been set up. In these matters, the L-G should assert his or her stand."

"However, on other civilian issues such as health and education, it is a different story. In these matters, the L-G should, as far as possible, not interfere with the functioning of the state government, which has a mandate from the people. So, for instance, if the L-G has certain reservations about mohalla clinics, he should act promptly and make these reservations clear to the state government. But the L-G should not sit on the files and delay them," he said.

Maybe it is a lack of understanding of the need for both the L-G and the state government that has caused a lot of other tussles between Kejriwal and Baijal.

In October, Kejriwal had dramatically hit out at Baijal for "opposing" a bill to regularise guest teachers in New Delhi. "I am an elected chief minister, not a terrorist," he had said. Kejriwal had also alleged that files relating to the regularisation of the teachers were never shown to Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio, by the officials on the direction of the L-G.

In September, Kejriwal had lashed out at Baijal for "stalling" the mohalla clinics file for a year "at the behest of the BJP".

He had also raised this issue in August when he had said that there should be no politics over mohalla clinics and urged Baijal to sort out objections over the matter across the table.

In April, Kejriwal had said that Baijal "fires one bullet at me" every day. That was his first direct attack against Baijal since he was appointed as L-G.

With inputs from Neerad Pandharipande and PTI

Updated Date: Nov 03, 2017 14:25:28 IST