The Big Picture – Chief Minister Vs Lieutenant Governor: Rules, Rights and Responsibilities
The Lieutenant Governor has of Delhi met the President and has discussed his standoff with the Delhi Government over his decision to appoint IAS officer Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary. The Chief Minister will also be meeting the President. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has instructed officials not to follow any order from Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung without running it by him, in a rapidly escalating row that has reached President Pranab Mukherjee’s doorstep.
The ongoing tuslle in Delhi between Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and Delhi Chief Minster Arvind Kejriwal has aparked a new debate on the issue. However, this tussle is not new altogehter. In 2002, when Sheila Dixit was the Chief Minister of Delhi and NDA Government was in power at the centre, a similar tussle was observed. Every successive government in Delhi has been asking for more power. But, since it is not a full fledged state many powers lie with the central government. Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution says that the Delhi Government does not have powers to enact laws on Public Order, Police and Land. However, rule 45 of the transaction of business rules says that Delhi government can have powers on these three subjects if there is an order issued by the Central Government. Quoting this section the present Delhi Chief Minister is demanding more powers.
There should be a harmonious functioning between the Lt. Governor and Chief Minister and People too expect the same. It is true that the Delhi Government is a democratically elected government with overwhelming majority. But, the constituion and National Capital Region Act have laid down the framework within which the Delhi governance has to be carried out. These laws clearly demarcate the powers that the elected government will have and discretionary powers given to the Lt. Governor. Article 239AA also says that except for the three reserved areas the Delhi state legislature can encat laws on all subjects in the state list and Concurrent list. Transaction of business rules says that before appointing a chief secretary a reference has to be made to the central government. Transaction of business rules relates to issues on which the governor acts only on the advice of the Council of Ministers. It means that it is necessary to involve the council of ministers in appointing the chief secretary. If difference of opinion arises then the Lt. governor can refer the Matter to the President and if there is an urgency the lt governor can take an immediate decision.
Legal experts have backed Mr Kejriwal. They say that there is no provision granting the LG the power to act at his own discretion in the matter of appointment of the chief secretary. The CM has in the meanwhile ordered that any direction or order, whether oral or written, received from Honorable LG or his office to the Chief Secretary or any administrative Secretary, shall first be submitted by the concerned administrative Secretary/Chief Secretary on the file to the Minister in charge and the Chief Minister for a decision. Experts have even said that the right to receive information doesn’t give the L-G the right to interfere.
Citing the rules under which Delhi is administered, the recent order issued by the Delhi CM mentions that it was the collective responsibility of the council of ministers for disposal of all business of the government. Rule 4 of Transaction of Business Rule (TBR) makes abundantly clear that the minister in-charge of a department shall be primarily responsible for disposal of the business pertaining to that department. Chapter IV and V of the TBR outlines the method for disposal of business relating to L-G’s executive functions and procedure to be followed in case of difference of opinion between L-G and a minister/council of ministers.
The Constitution, GNCT act of Delhi and Transaction of Business Rules clearly define what LG can do. In case of a dispute or difference of opinion between LG and council of ministers, LG could have called the minister concerned to discuss the matter. Some say that the decision who to appoint the Chief Secretary must be of the Council of Ministers and it is only when the LG has a difference of opinion on that decision that his role begins, hence there is no question of the LG taking the decision who to appoint as chief secretary without waiting for the decision of the Council of Ministers.
Meanwhile, the Lt. Governor has informed the Chief Minister, drawing his attention to the relevant provisions of the Constitution, the GNCTD Act 1991 and Transaction of Business Rules 1993, which underscore the relationship between the Lt. Governor’s and the Chief Minister’s office, that the role of the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers is to aid and advise the Lt Governor where the latter is entitled to act solely on his own discretion and all files relating to matters for which Legislative Assembly can make law should come to the Lt. Governor for final approval.