The Rajya Sabha passed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill in New Delhi on August 7, four days after the Lok Sabha cleared the Bill. According to the Centre, the Bill is for the “maintenance of democratic and administrative balance in the governance” of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
The Bill was passed with 131 members voting in favour of it and 102 voting against it. Apart from the NDA constituents, the Bill got the support of the members from BJD and YSRCP.
The House also voted against the amendments moved by the Opposition and a proposal to send it to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha. Deputy Chairman Harivansh, who presided over the voting, also ordered a probe into the claims of a few MPs who said that their names had been included without consent in the proposed select committee.
Replying to the debate on the Bill, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the aim of the Bill is to ensure corruption-free, pro-people governance in Delhi. “We have not changed anything in the previous Bill brought by the Congress regime,” he said, adding that Delhi cannot be ruled like a State as it is a Union Territory as per the Constitution. “Previous Chief Ministers had no issues with the Centre. They wanted development,” he said, adding that there is an attempt to spread anarchy in Delhi.
“A government which was formed after a movement in 2015 says that the Centre wants to usurp power. We do not want usurp power. People have given us power. This Bill is to block the State government from interfering in the Centre’s powers,” Mr. Shah said, adding that from 1991 to 2015, there was a system on administration in Delhi and the Narendra Modi government had not changed anything. “The present Delhi government tried to change this system and this Bill is to nullify those attempts,” he said.
Countering the points raised by the Opposition, Mr. Shah added that the Centre has the right to draft laws for all Union Territories. “So, services will also include in this. Parliament has the right to amend and nullify the Acts passed by the Assembly,” he said, and added that the Congress was opposing the Act created by it to appease the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). He said the real target of AAP is not the BJP, but the Congress. “It is clear from their electoral history,” he said.
He also denied the charges that the Bill disrespects a Supreme Court order.
“This Bill is to protect the rights of the people of Delhi and that was why the Bill was hurried,” he said. He alleged that the Delhi government removed the Vigilance chief and officers were asked to report to the Minister so that files related to the liquor scam could be destroyed.
Completely unconstitutional, says Opposition
Earlier, initiating the debate on the Bill, senior Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “This Bill is completely unconstitutional. It is fundamentally anti-democratic. It is a frontal assault on the regional voice and the regional aspirations of the people of Delhi. It violates all principles of federalism, all norms of civil service accountability, all models of Assembly-based democracy. It violates the basic structure,” he said.
Congress leader P. Chidambaram questioned the merit in the Bill’s provision to constitute a three-member authority chaired by the Chief Minister. “Is there merit when two members of the three constitute a quorum, they can even call a meeting, hold a meeting without the Chief Minister? Is there merit that even if a decision is taken unanimously, the Lieutenant Governor can overrule it? Is there merit that the member secretary who is a principal secretary of Home will convene a meeting with or without the Chief Minister?” he asked.
Former Chief Justice and MP Ranjan Gogoi defended the Bill. Mr. Gogoi’s remark on the basic structure of the Constitution irked the Congress. Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal said in a statement later that the Centre must oppose the line of thought that there is no need to protect the basic structure of the Constitution.