Special case of Delhi

Special case of Delhi

Present  Status Autonomy  of  Delhi

  • Constitutionally,  Delhi  is  a  Union  Territory (UT) (since  1991) with  a legislature.    
  • Generally all the budgets of UT’s without Legislature is a part of Home Ministry Budget . Hence,  their financial powers are limited . But,  Delhi  has  unlimited Financial  Powers  as  long as  it  is  generating  its  own resources.     

69th Constitutional Amendment , 1991

69th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1991 provided following provisions

  • Administrator was designated as Lt. Governor
  • Strength of Legislative Assembly Fixed at 70 & Strength of council of Ministers to 7 (10%)
  • Chief Minister is to be appointed by President(not Lt. Governor) & other ministers by President on advice of Chief Minister
  • Lt. Governor   can promulgate ordinance during recess of Assembly but with prior permission of President

Restrictions  on  power  and  authority

  • At  present, Delhi  Assembly,  like  other  State  Assemblies,  has  power  to make  laws on all subjects  except  on  3 (PPL) ie:
    1. Public  order
    2. Police  
    3. Land  
  • Legislations  on  matters  related  to  Municipal  Governance  require the  consent  of  Lt Governor,  Union government  and  President  .  So,  the  Municipal  Corporation  is  not  under  the  full  control  of the  Delhi  government.  

Debate – Statehood for Delhi

2020 During Delhi elections, this was the major issue raised by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)  
June 2018 Delhi Legislature passed resolution to make Delhi a Full State  
2016 Proposal was to make Delhi a state with certain safeguards
1. Keep NDMC (Lutyens and Embassies) under Union Government
2. Appoint Governor instead of Lt Governor
3. Special Cadre of Officers for Delhi

Arguments for  statehood to Delhi

  1. Due to present status , Delhi  Development  Authority  (DDA),  Police  and  Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) are not under Delhi Government
  2. Multiplicity of Governance leading to lack of accountability : With such an overlap of responsibilities, Citizens cant hold governments accountable
    • Union Government : Lt Governor, Police, DDA
    • State Government : Water, Electricity, Transport, Health, Education etc
    • Local Government (MCD) : Birth Death Registration, Sanitation etc
  3. Delhi  has population of  2 crore  (more  than  10  full-fledged states), but democratic aspirations of the people of Delhi cant be met without being granted Statehood
  4. To update infrastructure, Delhi   needs  to  take  recourse  to  market  borrowing  but,  not  being  a state,  cannot  do  so.  
  5. Evolution Process must reach conclusion : Union Territories were created with the idea  to provide a transitional status to become states. With time, Goa, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh and Tripura have been granted statehood.

Arguments against  full  statehood (with  way forward)

  1. The capital region has diplomatic areas and other institutions of national interests. 
  2. It  is  not possible  for  the  central  government  to  come  under  a  state  government’s administrative  jurisdiction.
  3. Constituent Assembly Debates : This issue was raised for the first time by Pattabhi Sitaramayya in 1947 in the Constituent Assembly. But B.R. Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru and others opposed it.
  4. To  ensure  police  accountability  to  Delhi,  statehood  may  not  be  necessary.  An Oversight  Committee  consisting  of  Delhi  CM and Union Minister  can  address  local  specific  problems.  
  5. Macro Planning  for  the  National  Capital  requires  long-term  thinking  and  sound technical  advice,  which  the Ministry  of  Urban  Development  is  far  better equipped  to  provide.  

International Practices

Washington DC In  America,  a  district  (capital)  was  created  that  the  federal  government  could administer  itself  for  its  convenience
– At  the  same  time,   local issues  were   relegated  to  its  local  mayoral  government. But Police in Washington is under Mayor . 
Canberra Canberra doesn’t have a same legislative INDEPENDENCE as other Australian States and Australian Governor General is the head of Australia’s capital territory
Beijing In China , Central Government exercises more control not only over the city of Beijing ,the capital but also over important cities of Shanghai , Tianjin and  Chongqing. 

Given the global experience & other reasons sited above,  it would not be prudent to give full statehood to Delhi. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize the genuine rights of the citizens and balance them against the equally legitimate concerns of national nature.

Supreme Court Judgement : Is Lt. Governor bound by advise of Chief Minister?

Issue that Governor is bound to act on the aid & advice of Council of Ministers is settled fact by Supreme Court Judgements . But whether   extends to Union Territory of Delhi as well , is matter of debate due to unique position of Delhi (& Pondicherry as well) under Constitution. 


  • 2015: AAP Government vs LG Najeeb Jung. Conflict over bureaucratic appointments, including who should be promoted as the chief Secretary of Delhi.
  • AAP government blaming the LG of not clearing the schemes/initiatives/files related to health, education, PDS, transport, etc. and routinely referring every matter to President.

2018 Supreme Court Judgement

  • Supreme Court judgement in the Government of NCT Delhi vs Union of India case, overturned the August 2016 judgment 
  • Resolving the dispute over the demarcation of powers between the Union Government and the Government of Delhi, the Supreme Court laid down a few key principles:
    • Lt Governor is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers in all areas except 3 exempted subjects
    • Lt Governor will be advised by Union government on the matters of public order, police and land.
    • When difference of opinion arises on “any matter”, the Lt Governor can’t take a decision on its own or force a decision on the cabinet. He has to refer such matter to the President of India. But, LG should not act in a mechanical manner without applying mind and forward every decision of the Council of Ministers to the President of India.


  • In a democracy , it is the will of democratically elected government that prevails. LG can only act as check on the abuse of power and cant become power into itself. 

Feb 2019 : 2 Judge Supreme Court Bench ruling

After July 2018 Judgement, it was thought that tussles between Union and State has been resolved .

  • In a setback to Delhi Government, Supreme Court has ruled that Anti – Corruption Bureau is under the control of Lieutenant Governor which by extension means the center .
  • On the question of who has the powers of transfers and postings of officers , both judges differed and hence matter has been referred to a larger bench.

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