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President’s Rule In Delhi Mooted At Highest Levels

| Updated: March 29, 2024 10:17

Centre and L-G are looking at the “governance-related challenges” being faced

The BJP has pointed out that there is a “Constitutional crisis” in Delhi with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal still in Enforcement Directorate custody a week after his arrest. 

In response, AAP minister, Atishi Singh, says any move to impose President’s rule in Delhi would be an act of “political vendetta”. However, amid these responses, sources say the option of President’s rule is being discussed at the highest levels.

The Centre and the office of Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena are reportedly looking at the “governance-related challenges” being faced.

Governance challenges

On Thursday, Mr Saxena wrote to Mr Kejriwal regarding a case of alleged sexual harassment in a Delhi government medical college. The transfer of the medical college principal has been held up since February 14. He also noted that the state health minister, Saurabh Bharadwaj, had written to him directly, instead of routing his note through the chief minister.

Sources said that Mr Saxena’s letter, indicating that governance was being affected, stated that any note “on a significant issue be submitted to me, through the Honourable Chief Minister”.

Meanwhile, North East Delhi BJP MP, Manoj Tiwari, said Kejriwal’s arrest and an “internal war” in AAP on a possible successor were symptoms of a Constitutional crisis. “A Constitutional crisis has arisen in Delhi… Aam Aadmi Party is currently going through an internal war because Arvind Kejriwal is trying to make his wife the chief minister, and the legislators are not ready to accept her. Therefore, there is a Constitutional crisis in Delhi today, and due to Kejriwal’s drama, the people of Delhi are distressed,” Mr Tiwari said.

‘L-G keen on running Delhi’

Mr Bharadwaj, on the other hand, has told the media that the Lt Governor was “very keen on running Delhi”. “Imposing President’s rule gives him (Lt Governor) that window. His aspiration is to probably run the state without contesting elections. The dismissal of a PIL demanding the removal of Kejriwal as chief minister in the Delhi High Court is a setback for him,” he added.

Delhi’s unique Constitutional scheme allows imposition of President’s rule under Article 239AB. Some legal experts believe that the Article offers a significantly lower threshold for imposing President’s rule in Delhi as compared to in other states. 

According to sources, the conditions to invoke Article 239AB through the President, which requires a prior report to be submitted by the Lt Governor to the Centre, are under discussion.

It might be recalled that President’s rule under Article 239AB was invoked in Delhi in 2014 after Kejriwal had resigned 49 days into his first stint as chief minister as his government was in a minority. 

Current discussion

The current discussion is centred around sub clause (b) of Article 239AB, which provides that in the case of Delhi the President can suspend the operation of Article 239AA (conferring special status on Delhi and outlining its governance) if she is satisfied that it is necessary to do so for proper administration of the national capital.

According to Atishi Singh: “The President may exercise the power under Article 239AB only if she is satisfied that a situation had arisen in which the administration of Delhi NCT ‘cannot’ be carried on in accordance with Article 239AA or the GNCTD Act (The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act), or if it is ‘necessary or expedient’ to exercise the power ‘for the proper administration of the National Capital Territory’… Neither condition is met in this case.”

Sources said two sections of the GNCTD Act would be key in the event of imposition of President’s Rule: Section 50 which deals with the duration of the move and Section 51 which pertains to administrative expenses when such an order is in force.

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