On Monday, February 15, 2021, the Central Government introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha, which aims to give additional powers to the centre-appointed Lieutenant Governor of Delhi over the city-state’s daily affairs. The National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 aims to amend four sections of the existing Act to give the Lieutenant Governor overreaching powers. The bill says that the Government in Delhi will be the Lieutenant Governor and not the Delhi Legislative Assembly.
Before getting into the bill’s details, let’s look at how Union Territories (UTs), particularly the National Capital Territory of Delhi, are governed in India.
How Union Territories (UTs) Are Governed
The concept of Union Territories (UTs) was not added in the Indian Constitution until the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act of 1956. Currently, India has eight Union Territories. The central Government administers the UTs, and unlike states, do not have their governments. The Central Government appoints a Lieutenant General (LG), who is the administrator of the Union Territory and a representative of the President of India, who is the Chief Administrator of the UT according to Article 239.
There are two types of Union Territories- Union Territory With Legislature and Union Territory Without Legislature. Out of the eight, three UTs have their legislature. These are Delhi, Puducherry and Jammu & Kashmir. These UTs have their legislative assemblies and their council of ministers.
According to the Government of National Capital Territory Delhi Act (1991), the state government of Delhi has the power to make laws on all subjects apart from Public Order, Police and Land. This Act of 1991 outlines the powers of the legislative assembly of Delhi, the Lieutenant General’s discretionary powers, and the Chief Minister’s duties concerning the need to provide the LG with information.
Why The New Bill?
The concerns about how little powers the elected Government in Delhi have been raised by all major political parties since the 90s. There have also been demands about full statehood for Delhi. The power tussle between the Central and State governments in Delhi has been continuing fiercely since the first term of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Government in Delhi. The state government had frequent run-ins with the Lieutenant Governor and accused the LG of being the Centre’s agent and blocking the State Government’s development attempt. The State Government had also been accused of keeping the LG in the dark about executive decisions.
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court took up this matter in 2018. In July 2018, the five-judge bench gave a verdict that said the LG’s concurrence was not required on matters except Public Order, Police and Land over which the central Government has jurisdiction. It stated that the decision of the council of ministers would have to be communicated to the LG. It argued that requiring the prior concurrence of the LG would negate the ideals of representative governance and democracy. The AAP government claimed this to be a victory.
The Central Government says that the amendment is based on a 2019 Supreme Court Verdict and aims to affect its interpretation. It attempts to define the Government in Delhi to mean the Lieutenant General in all legislation passed by the assembly. This is in line with former LG Najeeb Jung’s opinion that the Government means the LG of NCT appointed by the President. The new bill aims to tilt the balance of power in favour of the Lt General. It bars the legislative assembly from making any rule or executive decision or enables itself or its committees regarding the city-state’s administration or to conduct inquiries about administrative decisions without seeking opinions from the LG.
The bill also said that any rules that are passed before this Act would be void. It also forces the legislative assembly to have its Procedure and Conduct of Business in line with that of the Parliament.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons attached with the draft bill read, “The said bill will promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive, and further define the responsibilities of the elected government and the lieutenant governor, in line with the constitutional scheme of governance of National Capital Territory of Delhi, as interpreted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court,”.
What Are The Proposed Amendments?
The Centre wants to amend Sections 21, 24, 33 and 44 of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991.
● Section 21 of the Act talks about restrictions on the legislative assembly to pass laws on some issues. The bill adds a subsection to clarify that the Government means the Lt General in any law passed by the assembly.
● To Section 24, the bill adds an amendment the LG will not assent to any bill that is not in line with the legislative assembly’s powers.
● Section 33 of the Act allows the Delhi assembly to make its own rules to conduct its business. The bill adds a clause that the house’s rules and procedures should be consistent with the Lok Sabha’s rules and procedures. It also says that any such rule made before the 2021 Act is passed will be void.
● The bill seeks to amend Section 44, which presently says that “all executive action of the lieutenant governor whether taken on the advice of his Ministers or otherwise shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the lieutenant governor”. The bill seeks to add that the Lt General’s opinion must be before the assembly takes any action.
Harsh Criticism From Major Political Parties
The Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi has called this amendment dangerous and expressed his fear that the Government in Delhi will mean nothing after the bill is passed. He also said that the bill goes against the federal structure of the country.
He said, “This Bill goes against what the Supreme Court Constitution Bench order had stated. If this is what the Centre wants to do, what is the point of holding elections and there is an elected government in the state? Why does the Centre pretend to be democratic?”
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “After being rejected by people of Delhi [8 seats in Assembly, 0 in MCD bypolls], BJP seeks to drastically curtail powers of elected government through a Bill in LS today [Monday],” he tweeted. “Bill is contrary to Constitution Bench judgement. We strongly condemn BJP’s unconstitutional and anti-democracy move.”
The Bill says-
1. For Delhi, “Govt” will mean LG
Then what will elected govt do?
2. All files will go to LG
This is against 4.7.18 Constitution Bench judgement which said that files will not be sent to LG, elected govt will take all decisions and send copy of decision to LG https://t.co/beY4SDOTYI
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 15, 2021
In a tweet, Congress leader P Chidambaram compared the LG to a Viceroy- “Under the proposed amendments, the L-G appointed by the Central government will become a Viceroy exercising all powers according to the wishes of his master.”
The proposed amendments to the GNCTD Act that applies to Delhi are retrograde, anti-democratic and an insult to the people of Delhi.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) March 16, 2021
The AAP is also planning a major protest against the bill.
Ram Mandir Opening For “Darshan” In 2023
The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is expected to allow visitors by December 2023, with the completion of construction only in 2025.
Sources in the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra have revealed that the colossal project of building the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, will be opening for devotees towards the end of 2023. In contrast, the project’s entire construction completion is expected towards the end of 2025. The sanctum sanctorum (Garbha Griha), along with the mandir’s first floor, will be ready by December 2023. Devotees will be allowed to visit the long-awaited mandir soon after the construction is completed.
An ANI report said, “The grand Ram Mandir being constructed in Ayodhya will be opened for devotees from December 2023. Sources told ANI that Garbhagriha, all five mandaps and the first floor will be ready by December 2023 and the mandir will be opened for devotees”.
Completion of entire Ram Temple complex in Ayodhya is expected by the year 2025; A museum, digital archives and a research centre also to come up in the temple complex: Sources
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) August 4, 2021
The sanctum sanctorum will be as high as 161 feet and built using Rajasthani marble and stones. Engineers and architects are taking all measures to ensure the longevity of this enormous project. The second stage of construction is expected to begin in December this year. Currently, the structure is at a standstill as a result of monsoons. Another reason for the delay is the coronavirus pandemic that depleted the force with which the mandir’s construction was expected to go on.
Ram Temple in Ayodhya will be ready in a year or two. Delhi government has decided to take senior citizens to Ayodhya for Ram Lalla's darshan with travel, accommodation, and food expenses to be borne by us: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal pic.twitter.com/MDGeP0k613
— ANI (@ANI) March 14, 2021
The announcement of the mandir being opened to visitors in 2023 has brought up questions about the political agenda. It is believed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) aims to use the mandir to catapult themselves into a position of advantage during the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Opening the mandir to devotees in December 2023 will give the BJP an easy 6-month gap to the general elections in 2024.
The opening of the long-awaited Ram Mandir in Ayodhya could be the factor that diverts the public, at least the Hindu’s in favour of BJP. Thus, securing them a vote bank based on religious sentiments upheld by the party in their previous tenure as the ruling party.
The Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir will be 360 feet long, 235 feet wide, and 20 feet high mandir will be completely ready by the end of 2025. The project will include amenities and structures like museums, archives, research centre, Sant Niwas, gau and Yagya shala, Etc. The main attraction is the Ram Mandir.
Centre to SC: Shreya Singhal Judgement- States Also Have Liability To Guarantee Individuals Not Troubled Utilizing Scrapped Section 66A
The Center has submitted to the Supreme Court that police and police requests being state subjects, the obligation to ensure the execution of the pronouncement that annuls Section 66A of the Information Technology Act belongs to the states. Further, the law requires organizations to share equivalent obligations to hold out the judgment.
On July 5, 2021, a Bench drove by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman said it was “upsetting,” “shocking” and “terrible” that individuals are as yet reserved and tried under Section 66A even six years after the apex court struck down the arrangement as unlawful and an infringement of free speech. The NGO People’s Union of Civil Liberties, represented by senior lawyer Sanjay Parikh and advocate Aparna Bhat, had made the court take notice of the contempt.
Undead segment: About Section 66A of the IT Act
In its reaction, the Centre said the police and public request were “State subjects” under the Constitution. “Counteraction, location, examination and arraignment of wrongdoings and limit the working of the police are essentially the obligation of the States,” the Centre submitted in the affidavit. It said law requirement organizations share equivalent obligation to agree with the apex court judgment. They make a move against cybercrime offenders according to the law.
The Centre said the Ministries of Information and Technology and Home Affairs gave a valiant effort to disperse information about the Supreme Court judgment in the Shreya Singhal case. Section 66A had suggested three years of imprisonment if an online media message caused “disturbance” or was found “terribly antagonistic”. Mr Parikh had welcomed the court intervention to work out a system to disperse the Shreya Singhal judgment to each police headquarters and preliminary court in the country.
“Section 66A of the IT Act has continued being utilized inside police base camp just as in cases under the attentive gaze of primer courts across India. This data was accessible on the Zombie Tracker site, created by a group of independent researchers. The discoveries of the site uncover that as of March 10, 2021, upwards of 745 cases are as yet forthcoming and dynamic under the steady gaze of region courts in 11 States, wherein the denounced are being indicted for offences of the IT Act under Section 66A.” the PUCL has acquiesced.
The accommodation has been in the rejoinder affidavit filed by PUCL in the apex court. This response was because of the Centre’s counter-affidavit in a petition filed by PUCL looking for different bearings and rules against the FIRs scraped under the struck-down Section 66A.
PUCL in, its rejoinder affidavit through Advocate Aparna Bhat, has contended that the Union of India should not have avoided its commitment by arguing that the obligation of execution lies with the States just as with the law enforcement agencies. It mentioned alluding to Union’s accommodation in its affirmation that ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are state subjects. Accordingly, the obligation rests with the State.
Alluding to the Centre’s accommodation that they had mentioned Chief Secretaries, all things considered, and Administers of Union Territories to outfit information for arraignments summoning Section 66A get-togethers, PUCL has contended that the reaction to the said letters have ‘nor set on record nor unveiled.’ PUCL has been tending that looking for removal of its application mentioning the execution of the judgment downplays the enormous scope infringement of the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to fair trials of citizens.
The applicant has proposed the additional directions to be given by the Court in the matter:
Directions to High Courts:
The applicant has looked for specific bearings to every one of the High Courts through Registrar Generals. The proposed headings ought to impart to every one of the District Courts and Magistrates that forthwith there ought to be no cognizance taken under the revoked Section 66A of the IT Act. It had been expressed that the High Courts be permitted to start Suo Motu contempt procedures against those liable for enlisting a case under Section 66A or for examining it or for indicting it.
Directions to DGPs:
The applicant has recommended that bearings are given to the Director-General of Police and Union Territories to convey to all police headquarters inside their separate locales to show a notification that Section 66A of the IT Act has been scrapped. Also, no case can be enrolled under the cancelled Section 66A of the IT Act.
Directions to Respondents:
Decisions have looked to the Respondents, Union of India, to accumulate the nuances of the cases enrolled by the Police or Law Enforcement Agencies under Section 66A of IT Act since the judgment of Shreya Singhal revealed by coordination with the chief secretaries of the DGP of the States and Union territories.
As per the applicant, Respondents can coordinate to guarantee that Doordarshan and All India Radio make quarterly declarations in significant vernacular dialects advising the public that Section 66A of the IT Act is presently not in power. The applicant has looked for bearings to guarantee that all authority and business forms of the IT Act that are here in after distributed (on the web or disconnected) do exclude the total content of Section 66A and educate the per user that said arrangement stands revoked.
The Shreya Singhal judgment had delivered by the seat which, lifted Section 66A by Judge J Chelameswar and RF Nariman for a violation of Articles 14 and 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The judgment wrote by Justice Nariman held the arrangement to be obscure, over the edge, and making an alarming impact on free discourse.
SC/ST Act Misuse: Alleged Fraudulence Of The Atrocities Act?
The Government of India, recently, claimed in an answer to the MPs of Rajya Sabha, that according to research, many states have conviction rates that are even lower than 1%.
In the year 2019, there were a total of 41,793 incidences of crime or atrocities against Dalits and 7815 cases of crime against tribal people. According to the report, only 44 out of 6540 cases of crimes or atrocities against Dalits in Bihar have been proven factual in trial courts. The STs filed a total of 97 cases under the SC-ST Act, but only two were judged to be true.
The conviction rate was 0.67 percent for men and 2.06 percent for women. It also stipulates the state with the most cases of crime against SCs is Uttar Pradesh, with 9451 cases, or 22.61 percent of all such cases in the country. Rajasthan comes in second with 6659 cases (15.9% of total cases), followed by Bihar (15.6%), and Madhya Pradesh (12.6 percent). In the last year, the number of ST cases filed in UP has increased by 600 percent.
According to the information, 705 cases were filed, however just one case was found to be true during the trials. The conviction rate in Kerala and Karnataka is slightly more than 1%. The SC-ST Act has been used in 1,733 cases in Karnataka. The conviction rate, on the other hand, was only 1.67%. In Kerala, the average conviction rate for atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis under the PoA Act remained at 1.76%. These claims sure put the concerned legislation on spot for being exploited.
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, aimed to prohibit the atrocities committed against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, to establish Special Courts for the trial of such offences and the relief and rehabilitation of victims of such acts, and to provide for matters connected with or incidental thereto.
The number of complaints against the misuse of the same has arisen in the last few years. The apex court has had stated in the past, that the Act has been misused to submit bogus complaints to foster caste animosity, rather than blurring caste barriers, adding that, if the Atrocities Act is not brought into line, it may even “perpetuate casteism,” and the court will have to act to prevent “false implication of innocent persons along caste lines.”
However, when seen through the lens of why the Act was necessary and how well it was administered, a different image emerges. The court’s stated goal in a 2018 ruling for the Prevention of Atrocities Act, was to safeguard officers from “arbitrary arrest” and “innocent civilians” from being falsely accused in cases. But according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the Ministry of Home Affairs, low conviction rates under the Act may be due to the misuse of the provision as much as the way investigations and cases are pursued in the courts.
Those who have pushed for stricter rules under the Act argue that the low conviction rate is due to the way cases are registered and prosecuted. “Dalits are frequently the victims of discriminatory treatment in the administration of justice,” according to a Human Rights Watch report.
According to a report published in the Economic & Political Weekly, approximately half of the cases brought under the Act do not get to court and are closed by the police. It had also hinted at a “caste bias among the investigating officers.” Sthabir Khora, an assistant professor, alleges that compounding, compensation inducement, and criminal intimidation are some of the practices that tend to prevail when the complainant is from the SC/ST category.
In October 2019, the top court observed the National Crime Records Bureau, where over 47,000 cases were reported in 2016 under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “It would be against the basic human dignity to treat all of them (SC/ST members) as a liar or as a crook person and cannot look at every complaint by such complainant with a doubt,” remarked justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai.
The bench stated that if a case filed under the SC/ST Act is determined to be false or baseless, many a time. It could be due to poor investigation or other factors such as human failures, regardless of caste. Therefore, all such accounts must be taken into consideration before making an informed decision to serve justice.
The bench had also added, “All humans are equal including in their failings. To treat SCs and STs as persons who are prone to lodge false reports under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act for taking revenge or otherwise as monetary benefits made available to them in the case of their being subjected to such offence, would be against fundamental human equality.”
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