The Rajya Sabha passed a contentious bill on Wednesday that would give more powers to Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor (the Centre’s representative) than the city’s elected government, despite a walkout by the Congress and several other opposition parties, including Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party. The Bill equates the Delhi “government” with the Delhi Lt Governor. The bill also makes it mandatory for the Delhi government to take the opinion of the L-G before any executive action.
The bill is seen as a major setback for Arvind Kejriwal’s government, which has been at odds with the Lieutenant Governor since taking power in the national capital for the first time in 2013.
The Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill clarifies that the word “government” in Delhi refers to the Lieutenant Governor, and his approval is required before the Delhi government takes any executive action.
The bill was passed after two days of pandemonium in the Upper House, during which opposition MPs repeatedly warned that it would undermine democracy. The opposition has requested that the bill be referred to a Select Committee.
The Law was approved by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha. When the government moved the bill for consideration, the opposition demanded a schism. During the vote, 83 MPs voted in favour of the bill, while 45 voted against it. The Congress also walked out shortly before the bill’s passage.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy tried to respond to the opposition’s concerns. The amendments, he said, have been brought to remove ambiguities in the 1991 Act and the changes were made in the spirit of a Supreme Court judgment. Earlier the Supreme Court had ruled that the Delhi government need not obtain the Lieutenant Governor’s “concurrence” on every issue of day-to-day governance.
The amendments in the Act would create a sound government mechanism in Delhi, he said, by bringing in transparency and clarity, equity and inclusiveness and enhance accountability.