Respect for Law in Delhi Waning?

A Delhi court on 3rd Aug. 2016 witnessed a scuffle between security guards manning the court’s entrance gate and a lawyer resulting in reported injury to the lawyer and subsequent agitation by the court’s lawyers against the police action. That two arms of the government charged with upholding and enforcing law should make a spectacle of themselves in this manner reflects a waning respect for law in the country’s Capital, Delhi. This is also reflected in the general law and order situation in the Capital including increasing crime against women. But what is more worrisome in the case of Delhi is the constant tug of war between the local administration of the Union Territory of Delhi and the Delhi Police which happens to function under the Union Government.

Many people believe that the waning respect for law in Delhi has to do with the emergence and rise of Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party. Arvind Kejriwal emerged on the public scene in 2013 as part of the Lok Pal movement of Anna Hazare. One of his first acts was to organise protests against high electricity tariffs in Delhi. He exhorted people not to pay their electricity bills. In cases where the electric connections of people not paying their bills were disconnected, he personally and publically reconnected them by climbing the poles and got himself photographed in the process making a mockery of the law. Even then, quite a few people were left without electric connections for non-payment of bills.

In December, 2013, he became the Chief Minister of Delhi heading a minority government.To form the Government, he accepted the support of the Congress party although he had earlier pledged in public against accepting any such support. Even while holding the constitutional office of Chief Minister, he sat on an overnight dharna near Parliament House, defying section 144 CPC, demanding action against some police men who had acted in performance of their duties against one of his colleagues. He even threatened to thwart the Republic Day Parade on the occasion of the Republic Day by continuing to sit on dharna at the site which was on the route of the parade. However, he was somehow made to see better sense.

Soon thereafter, he tried to introduce a bill in the Delhi Assembly without following due procedure but was not allowed to do so by the House. Rather than follow the due procedure, he resigned as Chief Minister again manifesting his non-conformist nature. This led to fresh elections to Delhi assembly.

The people of Delhi perhaps liked his non-conformist nature. Aided further by various promises he made to the people of Delhi, like cutting the electricity tariffs, making available free piped water, regularising contractual workers and unuthorised colonies etc. he won a massive majority in the Delhi assembly winning 67 out of 70 seats and again became the Chief Minister of Delhi in February, 2015.

This massive victory apparently helped reinforce his belief in his own infallibility and he adopted a totally confrontational and unyielding attitude towards the Lt. Governor and the Central Government, who, according to leading constitutional experts, had the real authority in some matters relating to Delhi government. Kejriwal,however, dismissed all opinions not conforming to his own, including those of the L.G. and the Union Home Ministry and issued several orders, got several resolutions passed in the Assembly, made appointments and enforced decisions which while being legal according to him, did not carry the approval, considered mandatory by constitutional experts, of the LG and the Union Government. Several of the decisions and orders were declared null and void ab initio by the Lt. Governor but Kejriwal persisted with them. He made contemptuous, derogatory and uncivil references in public to persons holding constitutional offices superior to his own, specially the Prime Minister whom he repeatedly held guilty (by name) of everything he (Kejriwal) disliked, particularly incidents of police action against some of Kejriwal’s followers involved in alleged violation of law.

Many people consider Kejriwal’s attitude unsavory, setting a bad example in public behaviour and likely to promote defiance of authority and disrespect for law, even flaunting it as heroic. It is, however, a matter of debate whether Mr. Kejriwal’s example has really influenced adversely the attitude of Delhi people towards law and authority as established by law.

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