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Centre returns 14 Bills passed by Delhi Assembly, says "follow procedure"

  • It seems as if the tussle between the Centre and the Delhi government is set to stay for days to come. What had once started off as some "misunderstandings", has now transformed and snowballed into a serious spat between the authorities at power.

    The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has returned 14 Bills passed by the Delhi Legislative Assembly over the course of the past one year, including the contentious Jan Lokpal Bill, which sought “overriding powers” to punish Central government employees for graft. A senior government official said the Bills were “unilaterally” passed by the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government without following the “requisite procedures.”

    The Bills were returned when they came to the MHA for assent through the office of Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung as none of the Bills was passed with “prior assent.” The Delhi government, however, contended that this was not required as per provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act (GNCTD), 1991.

    “Since Delhi is a Union Territory, any Bill before being introduced in the Assembly has to be vetted by the MHA first. It has to come in the form of a legislative proposal first and if found that it is not repugnant with any Central laws, then only can it be introduced in the Assembly, let alone passed. This procedure was not followed in the case of any of these 14 Bills,” said a senior Home Ministry official.

    According to a senior Delhi government official, the MHA’s argument was erroneous given the fact that Section 26 of the GNCTD Act held that no Bill passed by the Delhi Assembly should be invalid merely since prior assent of the LG or the MHA had not been taken. A Delhi government official added that the LG had denied any information about the said Bills being returned.

    The development comes in the wake of President Pranab Mukherjee refusing his assent to a Bill seeking to protect 21 MLAs, appointed as Parliamentary secretaries, from the ambit of office of profit law. As reported by The Hindu earlier, the MHA had said that the Jan Lokpal Bill “could not be passed in its present form.”

    Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to question why the “chosen legislative assembly” of Delhi did not have the right to pass Bills which it sought fit. “Should the Centre have the right to stall every law passed by Delhi? Is the Centre Delhi’s headmaster?” asked Mr. Kejriwal.

    In another Tweet, Mr. Kejriwal said, “With folded arms, we appeal to Mr. Modi — please have a big heart, forget the defeat dealt to you in Delhi and stop avenging yourself at the expense of its citizens.”

    “The Bills have not been rejected, they have only been returned. If the Delhi government sends them back after following due procedures, they will be looked into afresh,” said the Home Ministry official.

    A Delhi government official responded, “We will examine the issues raised by the MHA and work towards amending them. Lack of prior approval cannot, constitutionally, be the sole reason for returning of the Bills.”

    The Bills which were returned in the last few weeks include the Janlokpal Bill 2015, the Minimum Wages (Delhi Amendment) Bill 2015, the Delhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill 2015, the Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill 2015, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Delhi Amendment) Bill 2015 and a Bill related to working journalists.
     

    OUR TAKE

    It is true that more often than not, these kind of arguements in the past have not received so much emdia coverage as tis one. This has been because the media has often potrayed this as a fight between the two enigmatic leaders- Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. It is no surprise either. Ever since the election days, the Modi fever had covered the entire country and Kejriwal sure had complete control of the Capital. We do not think this is an issue to be blown out of proportions and such things do happen in a democratic setup of a country. The Delhi Assembly should take it in the right stride and find out the few nooks and cranies to be taken care of, make it right and report it back. That is when democracy and legislation wins in the true spirit.


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