RS approves Delhi govt bill amid opposition walkout

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NEW DELHI: Amid loud protests, a heated debate and walkouts by

opposition parties

, the NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was approved by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday by an 83-45 vote, establishing primacy of the lieutenant governor in the Capital, which is a Union Territory with a legislature.
Passed by the Lok Sabha on March 22, the Bill is set to be law once the President approves the legislation and it is notified. The Bill was passed by a voice-vote, but a division was sought before it went through. No member abstained from voting after a fractious debate where the opposition accused the Centre of undercutting the Delhi legislature and BJP leaders responding that the Bill settled a

persistent ambiguity

in the roles of the LG and the city government.
The law, which may face a fresh legal challenge, establishes the status of the LG as in any other UT, equating the ‘government’ in Delhi with the LG. The proposed law is a blow to AAP’s campaign for full statehood for Delhi. Chief minister

Arvind Kejriwal

vehemently opposed the Bill.
The debate in the Rajya Sabha, which saw 17 members participate, began with protests and MPs storming the well and calling it unconstitutional. This resulted in two back-to-back adjournments soon after the Bill was taken up for discussion.
Opposition parties demanded that the Bill be referred to a select committee and dissent was registered by Congress, AAP, SP, RJD, DMK, BJD,


, YSRCP, CPM, Shiv Sena, SAD, TDP and NCP. While parties like BJD, YSRCP and SP walked out after registering their dissent, Congress, led by leader of opposition

Mallikarjun Kharge

, exited the House after division of votes was declared.
The Bill states that it will promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive, and further define the responsibilities of the elected government and the LG, in line with the constitutional scheme of governance of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, as interpreted by the

Supreme Court

The objects and reasons of the Bill said the SC’s interpretation that the city government need not obtain the LG’s “concurrence” on every issue of day-to-day governance was the rationale for the legislation as the amendments look to end the “ambiguity” and “uncertainty” in the current legislative framework.
BJP speakers like Bhupender Yadav pointed to committees being set up which were in the manner of inquiries and which exceed the brief of even Lok Sabha panels. However, AAP member Sanjay Singh, who protested vehemently, described these amendments as “unconstitutional” and an attempt to “finish the role of the elected government in Delhi”. Congress member Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the Bill sought to convert the government of Delhi to a puppet. Addressing BJP, he said, “This is not about AAP, Congress or West Bengal, these amendments hit at the root of federalism.”
Countered Singhvi’s allegations, Yadav said the Bill only tried to end ambiguity of the powers and role of the LG within the constitutional provisions applying to Delhi to ensure smooth governance.
Replying to the debate, junior home minister

G Kishan Reddy

said, “The Bill does not curtail in any manner any of the powers enjoined on the NCT of Delhi, which is provided by the Constitution of India. The bill is also not attempting any amendment of Constitution of India and is in consonance with the Supreme Court.”
Countering the opposition’s allegations, Reddy said, “This 1991 law was not brought by the BJP government, it was the Congress government. If everything was fine with the law, why did we need to go to the Supreme Court and high court? The problem was that there was lack of clarity, there was ambiguity and discussions on interpretation were happening at different forums. As a government, we felt that it is our responsibility to bring in clarity. Nothing is being added to the Act that is contrary to constitutional provisions.”
In a tweet on Wednesday, TMC MP Derek O'Brien had said his party MPs had rushed to the Capital to stop “bulldozing” of the bill in Rajya Sabha. He registered strong dissent against the bill in the House in the evening.

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