A controversial bill which establishes Lieutenant Governor’s supremacy over the city’s elected government cleared Rajya Sabha.
The ruling Aam Aadmi Party along with Congress and other opposition parties staged a walkout opposing the bill. The bill is seen as a huge impediment to Arvind Kejriwal’s elected government which has a constant bickering going on with the LG ever since it came into power.
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill clarifies that the term ‘government’ in Delhi means the Lieutenant Governor and his opinion has to be considered before any executive decision is made by the Delhi government.
The Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, expressed his dissatisfaction with the bill through his tweet,
“RS passes GNCTD amendment Bill. Sad day for Indian democracy. We will continue our struggle to restore power back to people. Whatever be the obstacles, we will continue doing good work. Work will neither stop nor slow down.”
Opposition created huge chaos over the bill for two days in the Upper House. There were two brief adjournments witnessed as members shouted slogans against the centre. Marshals had to be called in and a protective ring was formed by them encircling the
chair and the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, who moved the bill for consideration, G Kishan Reddy. MPs from the opposition repeatedly labelled the bill as an instrument of destroying democracy. They also demanded for the bill to be sent to the Select Committee.
During the debate, Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi tore the proposed legislation after calling it an extremely unconstitutional bill and called the Delhi unit of BJP to ‘join us in opposing this’.
He further alleged the current regime to be imposing ‘coercive federalism’ and commented,
“Make no mistake friends this is not about AAP, or Congress or BJP. It’s about the fundamentals of federalism”.
The bill was passed in Rajya Sabha by voice note. During voting, 83 members favoured the bill while 45 opposed it.
Centre has maintained that the bill is not outrageous, but instead, is in line with the Supreme Court’s previous ruling on the ambit of powers of the LG and the Delhi Government. The apex court, previously, had reserved the decision of Delhi High Court which held LG to be the ‘administrative’ head of Delhi and instead held, “LG is an administrative head in the limited sense, and is not a governor”.
The top court had explained that the powers of LG are different from those of the Delhi Government and that reference to the President can be made only with respect to exceptional matters under Article 239AA(4) of the Indian Constitution which pertain only to land, police and public order. The statements of objects and reasons of the bills maintains that the original bill was enacted to supplement those Constitutional provisions which dealt with legislative assembly and Council of Ministers for Delhi.
It further clarifies that the bill has been brought to implement the interpretation given by the Supreme Court which ruled that the city government is not required to obtain LG’s ‘concurrence’ of every issue of day-to-day governance. The statements of objects and reasons, read,
“The said bill will promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive, and further define the responsibilities of the elected government and L-G, in line with the constitutional scheme of governance of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, as interpreted by the Supreme Court”.
Kishan Reddy while denying the allegation that the bill is an attempt to expropriate the powers of the elected government asserted that the amendments sought to address, ‘certain ambiguities’ in the 1991 law. AAP stated that it might approach the Supreme Court against the legislation and alleged it to be ‘unconstitutional’ to make Delhi Government ‘administratively impotent’ by a political
party which has been made ‘electorally impotent’ by the people of the national capital.