The Delhi Services Bill, 2023

  • Four days after the Lok Sabha approved the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Rajya Sabha passed it.
  • Once signed by the President of India, it will become law.

Background Information on the Delhi Services Bill, 2023

  • The Supreme Court decided in favour of the Delhi government in May 2023, allowing it power over most services in the capital city, with the exception of public order, land, and police issues.
  • However, on May 19, the Centre submitted an ordinance to override the Supreme Court’s judgement, granting the Lieutenant Governor (LG) more jurisdiction in areas of appointments and transfers of officials.

Key Bill Provisions

  • National Capital Civil Services Authority: The bill creates the National Capital Civil Services Authority, which would offer recommendations to the LG on service-related issues like as transfers, vigilance, and disciplinary processes.
  • Powers of the LG: The measure expands the LG’s discretionary authority, allowing him to override the Authority’s recommendations and act on his own in certain circumstances.
  • Ministerial Matter Disposal: The law empowers Delhi government ministers to issue standing orders for matter disposition, subject to consultation with the relevant Department Secretary. However, before issuing any order, certain sensitive subjects must be submitted to the LG for his view.
  • Secretaries’ responsibilities include bringing specific issues to the attention of the LG, Chief Minister, and Chief Secretary, particularly those that may result in a dispute with other state governments, courts, or the federal government.

Significant revisions to the Services Clause 3A removal:

  • The bill repeals a provision in the ordinance that barred the Delhi Assembly from passing legislation concerning ‘State Public Services and State Public Service Commission.’ This grants the assembly the authority to create service regulations.
  • The National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA) would no longer be required to submit an annual report to Parliament or the Delhi Assembly, eliminating the requirement to deliver the report before both legislative bodies.
  • Changes to the Appointment Cycle: The law weakens regulations governing the appointment of chairpersons and members of Delhi’s numerous authorities, boards, commissions, and statutory organisations. It does away with the need for “orders/directions of ministers” on topics that must be communicated to the central government before the Lieutenant Governor and Chief Minister.
  • Appointment of Delhi LG Powers: The bill gives the Lieutenant Governor the authority to appoint members of the Delhi government’s Boards and Commissions from a list of names proposed by the NCCSA, which includes recommendations from the Delhi Chief Minister. The Delhi Assembly passes regulations that establish these boards and commissions.

Debate on the Constitution

  • Critics argue that the bill may violate the principle of parliamentary democracy by potentially giving the central government powers over Delhi services, breaking the triple chain of accountability between civil servants, ministers, and the electorate.
  • Discretionary Powers of the LG: The measure enhances the LG’s discretionary powers by allowing him to override Council of Ministers decisions, which might potentially impair the operation of the democratically elected government.
  • Certain terms in the bill, such as the LG’s “sole discretion” and criteria for concerns brought to his attention, are regarded unclear and could create to ambiguity in execution.
  • Concerns of the Opposition: Opposition leaders have spoken out strongly against the law, alleging that it violates democratic heritage, the spirit of federalism, and the authority of an elected government.

Defence of the Government

  • The Centre has justified the measure by claiming that India has a quasi-federal structure in which the Centre is supreme.
  • The measure seeks to strike a balance between the interests of Delhi and the nation.
And get notified everytime we publish a new blog post.