The Chief Minister of New Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), went on a protest against Ministry of Human Affairs (MHA) with a demand to handover the responsibility of the police to the State Government of New Delhi.
Long ago, I was one of the few Indians who opposed ‘Jan Lokpal Bill’ as proposed by Arvind Kejriwal et al. I opposed his version of the bill, not because I support corruption in the country, but because I found his bill autocratic, running counter to the core fabric of a modern democracy, wherein the judiciary, police force and administration were all rolled into one entity. Such convergence of powers into one single body is anathema to modem nations, which ensure that the administrator, the police officer and the judge remain separate entities.
Curious case of New Delhi
New Delhi, unlike other States in India, is not a full-fledged State. Unlike other Union Territories, like Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, which got converted into a State through state reorganization acts using Article 3 of Indian Constitution, New Delhi was never converted into a State. Instead, New Delhi continues to remain a Union Territory, but acquires many State-like powers, through 69th Constitutional Amendment passed in 1991. In its introduction, the amendment describes New Delhi as a ‘special’ Union Territory:
…it recommended that Delhi should continue to be a Union territory and provided with a Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers…
…to ensure stability and permanence the arrangements should be incorporated in the Constitution to give the National Capital a special status among the Union territories.
Through insertion of Articles 239AA and 239AB in the Indian Constitution, the Union Territory of New Delhi, called the National Capital Territory, was given a State Assembly and a Council Ministers with powers to make laws in the State List, except the Entries 1, 2 and 18 of the State List of the Seventh Schedule (Article 246), which are Public Order, Police, and Land. These powers are given to a Lieutenant Governor under the Union Government.
The reason why New Delhi was never converted into a State but remained a Union Territory with State-like powers except Public Order, Police and Land is that New Delhi is the capital city of India which houses central administration of the country, and therefore is unlike any other city or region of India. It was deemed necessary that Union Government should continue to control public order, police and land related issues to make the functioning of the capital city smooth. It was thought that giving these essential powers away to the Chief Minister of New Delhi would make Union Government subservient to a State.
Over the last twenty years, there have been certain incidents where the State Government of Delhi felt inadequate without holding the powers over Police, like in the recent rape incident.
Aam Aadmi Election Manifesto for New Delhi
Aam Aadmi Party’s manifesto made a ‘demand for full statehood to Delhi, so that MCD, DDA and Delhi Police are directly controlled by the Delhi government.’
Today, we see Arvind Kejriwal protesting in front of MHA, but I am not sure why. If he really wants to convert New Delhi into a full-fledged state as demanded in the manifesto, so that the powers of Police are handed over to the State Government, he should demand for a new state reorganization bill to be passed by the Parliament under Article 3 of Indian Constitution. Protesting in front of MHA is not going to fetch any result except may be some prime time on media channels. Unfortunately this time around that prime time was not in his favor.
Conferring full-state status to New Delhi raises serious questions on the viability of the Union Government, and it is not clear if the Indian Parliament is ready to hand over those powers to the State, especially given the belligerent attitude of Arvind Kejriwal. Imagine the entire Central Government of the country held at ransom by the police force under the unamenable Chief Minister of New Delhi.
However, a compromise can be obtained wherein the zones that do not house the Union Government offices are handed over to the State Government. But the method for doing that is by passing reorganization bill or by making constitutional amendment.