Parliament passes bill that gives primacy to L-G in Delhi; Kejriwal says 'sad day for Indian democracy'

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New Delhi, Mar 24 (PTI) The Delhi government will now have to seek the opinion of the lieutenant governor before any executive action after the passage of GNCTD bill in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday which was termed as a 'sad day for Indian democracy' by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who vowed that the AAP dispensation will continue to struggle to restore power back to Delhiites.

According to the bill that was also passed by Lok Sabha last week, the 'government' in the national capital would mean the 'Lieutenant Governor' in context of any law to be made by the legislative assembly.

Earlier in the day, Aam Aadmi Party's Rajya Sabha member N D Gupta said that the party will approach the Supreme Court to challenge the Centre's move.

The party claimed that the bill would stall Delhi's progress by giving undue powers to the lieutenant governor.

The GNCTD bill stated the legislative assembly will not make any rule to enable itself or its committees to consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the national capital or conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions.

'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,' Kejriwal tweeted.

His deputy Manish Sisodia said the rights of the elected government have been 'snatched' and handed over the the lieutenant governor.

'Today is the dark day for democracy. The rights of the government elected by the people of Delhi have been snatched and handed over to LG. It is unfortunate that Parliament has been chosen for the murder of democracy, which is the temple of our democracy. The people of Delhi will fight against this dictatorship #BJPFearsKejriwal,' Sisodia tweeted in Hindi.

The legislation was passed in Rajya Sabha by a voice vote on Wednesday. However, a division was sought by the opposition when the government moved the bill for consideration. During voting, 83 members were in favour while 45 opposed the bill. Just before the passage of the bill, the Congress too walked out.

Earlier in the day, Rajya Sabha witnessed uproar by opposition members who termed the bill as 'unconstitutional' and demanded that it be sent to a Select Committee for scrutiny. The upper house also witnessed two brief adjournments. The members of the BJD, SP and the YSR-Congress also walked out of the House.

Replying to the debate, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy sought to dispel the concerns of the opposition members saying the amendments in the Act would create a sound government mechanism in the NCT of Delhi.

Reddy said it will improve equity and inclusiveness. The amendment will lead to transparency and clarity in governance in NCT Delhi and enhance public accountability, he added.

The bill that was approved by Rajya sabha stated the legislative assembly shall not make any rule to enable itself or its committees to consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the national capital or conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions.

'Any of the rule made in contravention of this proviso, before the commencement of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, shall be void,' it said.

'When a bill has been passed by the legislative assembly, it shall be presented to the lieutenant governor and the lieutenant governor shall declare either that he assents to the bill or that he withholds assent therefrom or that he reserves the bill for the consideration of the president...' it said.

In June 2018, Kejriwal and his Cabinet ministers had staged a sit-in at the lieutenant governor’s office as a power tussle between the then lieutenant governor and the AAP government had intensified.

The Supreme Court had in July 2018 ruled that the lieutenant governor cannot interfere in every decision of the Delhi government and that he must act on aid and advice of the council of ministers.

Since the 2018 judgement, there have been no major flashpoints between the Arvind Kejriwal government and the BJP-led central government.

However, the move is likely to revive the power tussle between the two sides.

In a tweet, AAP MLA Raghav Chadha said that the NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 is an 'unconstitutional' attempt to make the Delhi government 'administratively impotent' by a political party that has been made 'electorally impotent' by the people of the national capital.

Last week when the bill had been introduced in Lok Sabha, Kejriwal had sought to know what role would his elected government play if, according to the bill, 'government' means the 'LG'.

“The Bill says- 1. For Delhi, “Govt” will mean LG Then what will elected govt do? … 2. All files will go to LG This is against 4.7.18 Constitution Bench judgement which said that files will not be sent to LG, elected govt will take all decisions and send copy of decision to LG,” he had said in a tweet.

Explaining the rationale behind the bill in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said the amendments have been brought to remove ambiguities in the 1991 Act.

He stressed that changes in the law have been sought in the spirit of what has been said in the Supreme Court judgement. He asserted there was no political angle and the amendments are on 'technical' grounds. PTI UZM LUX BUN ZMN