In a late-night move that reeks of an attack on democracy and the Indian Constitution, the Central government has hastily introduced an ordinance aimed at undermining the power of the elected Delhi government. This audacious attempt to snatch away the authority granted to the Delhi government by the highest constitutional bench of India, the Supreme Court, is a brazen assault on the democratic principles that the country upholds. These were the words of AAP Senior Leader and Delhi Cabinet Minister Ms Atishi while she slammed the Central government for the unconstitutional ordinance during a press conference on Saturday.
Ms Atishi further said, “This is not the first instance where the Central government has sought to curtail the power of the elected Kejriwal government. In 2015, when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government secured an overwhelming majority with public support, winning 68 out of 70 seats in Delhi, the BJP government issued an unconstitutional notification within three months in an endeavor to strip the elected Kejriwal government of its rightful power.”
She added that the Modi government, through a notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), declared that the Kejriwal government does not have control over crucial services matters such as the transfer and postings of bureaucrats, or to take action against inefficient officers. According to the Modi government, these powers resided with the central government, contravening the established order.
Ms. Atishi said, “After a grueling eight-year legal battle in the high court and Supreme Court, on May 11, 2023, the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court ruled against the Central government, stating that their actions had been misguided. The Supreme Court’s decision unequivocally affirmed that the power to govern lies with the elected arm of the government, i.e., the Delhi government. The court’s order also highlighted the reasons why the Kejriwal government possesses the authority over services.
The Supreme Court relied on three key sections of the Indian Constitution to support its ruling
-> Firstly, the principles of the federal structure of the Constitution stipulate that the power of any government cannot be arbitrarily usurped. The elected Delhi government rightfully holds this power, in accordance with this principle.
-> Secondly, in line with the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution, Article 239 (A) outlines the responsibility of an elected government in Delhi’s Legislative Assembly to implement the will of the people.
-> Thirdly, the accountability of bureaucrats towards the elected government is a fundamental constitutional principle. Bureaucrats serving the Delhi government are answerable to the elected government to ensure the implementation of the people’s will.
“Based on these constitutional principles, the Supreme Court restored the power over services to the Delhi government. In essence, the order affirmed that if the people of Delhi have elected CM Arvind Kejriwal with a majority, then he possesses the authority to make decisions. Except for matters concerning Land, Law and Order, and Delhi Police, CM Arvind Kejriwal has the power to decide on all other issues. The Constitution also binds the Lieutenant Governor (LG) to acquiesce to the decisions of the elected government, except in the aforementioned areas of land, law and order and Delhi Police,” said AAP Senior leader during the press conference.
She further said, “However, it seems that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the BJP-led central government find it difficult to accept this reality. They struggle to comprehend how the Supreme Court bestowed power upon CM Arvind Kejriwal, and now the government can work at 10X pace. Perhaps PM Narendra Modi pondered why the BJP government, despite governing several states for 20 years, failed to achieve what CM Arvind Kejriwal accomplished without such powers in the past 8 years. The Kejriwal government has delivered exceptional schools and hospitals, along with free electricity, water, bus travel for women, and the construction of beautiful roads and flyovers for the people of Delhi. Witnessing such remarkable progress without unfettered power over eight years, PM Modi appears concerned about the potential achievements of the Kejriwal government with full authority.” She added that consequently, PM Modi and his government chose to introduce this unconstitutional ordinance through the backdoor, aiming to halt the progress of the Kejriwal government during the Supreme Court’s six-week summer vacation.
The central government is fully aware that this ordinance is unconstitutional and will undoubtedly be struck down by the Supreme Court. They could have introduced this ordinance a week ago, immediately after the Supreme Court granted powers to the elected Kejriwal government. Instead, they deliberately waited for the start of the Supreme Court’s summer vacation and released the ordinance at 11 pm yesterday, attempting to exploit the timing to their advantage, added Ms Atishi.
Content of the ordinance passed by the Central government late at night on May 19
-> Section 3A of the ordinance claims that the elected government of Delhi, including the Delhi Legislative Assembly, holds no authority to pass any rules pertaining to the services department.
-> Furthermore, a new authority, the “National Capital Civil Services Authority,” will be established for transfer and postings in Delhi. This authority will consist of three members, with the Chief Minister of Delhi serving as the Chairperson, and the Delhi Chief Secretary and Home Secretary as members. However, it is vital to note that the Delhi government will not have the power to appoint the Chief Secretary and Home Secretary; instead, these appointments will be made by the Central government. Consequently, despite being the Chairperson, the Chief Minister will find himself in the minority, lacking decisive authority. Additionally, if the secretaries, while serving as members of the authority, make decisions contrary to the will of the central government, the Lieutenant Governor will possess the right to override those decisions.
“In a nutshell, this ordinance proclaims that regardless of the Delhi people’s election of Arvind Kejriwal as their Chief Minister, the Delhi government will be dictated by the Central government, said AAP Senior Leader Atishi.
Ms Atishi further added that the truth is the Central government has no legal right to enact this ordinance. In its order, the Supreme Court explicitly stated in paragraph 160: “The involvement of the Union of India in the administration of NCTD is limited by Constitutional provisions, and any further expansion would be contrary to the Constitutional scheme of governance.” This signifies that while passing the order, the Supreme Court was well aware that the Union of India, or the Central government, would attempt to diminish the powers of the elected government of Delhi at any cost. Hence, the Supreme Court issued this order to prevent such encroachments on the constitutional balance.
Delhi Cabinet Minister further said, “This ordinance, passed by the central government, stands as a glaring example of its anti-constitutional and anti-democratic approach. It exposes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s deep-seated fear of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. However, both the central government and PM Modi must remember that the Indian Constitution, painstakingly crafted by Baba Saheb Ambedkar, endows Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal with power, and that power cannot be arbitrarily stripped away through an unconstitutional ordinance.”
In the face of this assault on democracy and constitutional principles, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) remains committed to upholding the values of our Constitution, the will of the people, and the autonomy of the elected government. AAP Senior Leader and Delhi Cabinet Minister Ms Atishi firmly stated, “The central government’s actions are an affront to democracy and an insult to the Indian Constitution. We will not waver in our commitment to fight for the rights of the people of Delhi and fight till the last.”