The ink has yet to dry on the Supreme Court order which ruled in favour of the Delhi government when it comes to who has control over most departments, but the Union government, in a brazen show of defiance, issued an ordinance that essentially negates the SC order and restores to itself the powers that the SC had ruled rightly belonged to the elected government of Delhi and not to the central government appointed Lieutenant Governor.
The ordinance that was issued towards the weekend, comes even as the Union government filed an appeal in SC seeking a review of its earlier judgement.
The ordinance is nothing but a brazen attempt to undo the ruling of the Supreme Court and, at the very least, bodes ill for the federal structure of democracy that was quite comprehensively held up by the Supreme Court.
No matter how the BJP may try to justify the decision, it is quite apparent that is seeks to take away powers from the elected government and council of ministers and instead hands it to a specially created national capital civil services authority where, the Lieutenant Governor will have the final say.
It is quite telling that the ordinance was issued on a Friday, the last working day of the last working week of SC, which will now embark on a six-week summer break, meaning it will be at least six weeks until whatever legal challenge is mounted against the ordinance is taken up by SC.
The Union government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is clearly rattled by the ruling AAP government in Delhi that now controls not only the government, but also the New Delhi Municipal Corporation and has been seeking to completely dismantle the elected government through not just the present ordinance but a series of obstacles and hurdles through what appears to be a clear abuse of power.
One needs to recall how, after AAP won the civic elections of New Delhi Municipal Corporation, the Centre along with Lieutenant Governor and BJP’s Delhi Unit did everything they could to ensure that an AAP mayor was not elected as the Delhi mayor. It took several attempts including approaching the courts for it to take place.
The Union government’s witch hunt of Delhi government officials and ministers under the guise of the probe into the Delhi liquor scam is yet another example of how on one hand, the Union is seeking to criminalise policy decisions of a government while it has quite willfully looked away at other more serious allegations of corruption as has been seen in the neighbouring state of Karnataka, where MLAs affiliated with the ruling and their family and friends have been caught with unaccounted cash and in other cases, caught red handed accepting bribes by the state Lokayukta.
For democracy to survive, both the Centre first needs to respect the boundaries that have been time and again been drawn not just by the Constitution but also reiterated by the courts. By showing blatant disregard and contempt not just for the Constitution and the Supreme Court but for all semblance of propriety in public life, the Modi government is only revealing its autocratic credentials and displaying a petulant, perverse streak that betrays a deep sense of insecurity that is completely out of tune with the Prime Minister’s claims of being a popular, unassailable leader of the world’s largest democracy.