The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government is set to get control over the postings and transfers of bureaucrats in Delhi as a bill to this effect was passed in Parliament on Monday.
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha after a debate that lasted for eight hours. It had received the assent of the Lok Sabha on August 3.
The bill received 131 votes in its favour and 102 against it in the Rajya Sabha. Apart from the constituents of the National Democratic Alliance, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal and Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress Party voted in its favour, The Indian Express reported.
The Centre had promulgated an ordinance on May 19 to create the National Capital Civil Service Authority in order to administer the transfer and posting of bureaucrats serving the Delhi government. The ordinance nullified a Supreme Court verdict passed on May 11 stating that the Aam Aadmi Party government in the national capital has legislative power over bureaucrats in all departments other than public order, police and land.
The bill that was passed by the Rajya Sabha replaces the May 19 ordinance.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament on Monday that the proposed law did not violate the Supreme Court judgement. He argued that it had been introduced to safeguard the rights of the people and not to usurp power.
Shah said that Delhi is different from all states, as it houses the Parliament complex, the Supreme Court and various embassies. “That is why Delhi is a Union Territory with limited powers for the Delhi Assembly,” the home minister said. “Anyone who contests elections in Delhi must understand this. If I contest panchayat elections and then ask for the rights of parliamentarians, that is not constitutionally possible.”
Shah said that the Centre was forced to introduce an ordinance as the Delhi government had begun to transfer officials and had directed officers of the level of joint directors to report to its ministers.
“And why was only the vigilance department targeted?” he asked, according to The Indian Express. “Why not the transport department, Jal Board, the road and building department, or the social welfare department? This is because the vigilance department has the files of the excise policy cases and liquor scam.”
Shah said that the Aam Aadmi Party had risen to power by opposing the Congress and was now seeking its support. “As soon as the Delhi services Bill is passed, [Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind] Kejriwal ji will make a U-turn and the alliance will break,” he added.
Black day for democracy, says Arvind Kejriwal
After the Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha, Kejriwal termed it a black day in India’s democracy. He accused the Centre of trying to usurp power through the backdoor and of insulting the people of Delhi.
“The entire country is seeing how you [Centre] snatched the power of the vote through this Bill,” he said in a video address. “You are making the people of Delhi slaves and rendering them helpless.”
Kejriwal said that the citizens of Delhi would not give even a single seat to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The Delhi chief minister thanked Opposition parties who voted against the Bill. “I am grateful in particular to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren, who came to Parliament despite health challenges,” he said.
Bill is unconstitutional, says Opposition
Earlier, initiating the debate on the bill, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi asked all parties to collectively oppose the bill. “Someday this anti-federal knock will come at your door,” he warned.
Singhvi, a renowned lawyer, added that the bill was unconstitutional and anti-democratic. “It is a frontal assault on the regional voice and the regional aspirations of the people of Delhi,” he asserted. “It violates all principles of federalism, all norms of civil service accountability, all models of assembly based democracy. It violates the basic structure.”
Congress leader P Chidambaram questioned what moral authority does the BJP have to pass a bill that “reduces the Delhi government to a municipality”.
Trinamool Congress leader Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said the legislation is aimed at making the Delhi government toothless. “The heavens would not have fallen if the government had waited for the constitution bench [of the Supreme Court] to deliver its verdict...what was the urgency of bringing this ordinance? he asked.