The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi Amendment Bill, 2021, which aims to give more powers to the Delhi lieutenant governor. The controversial Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday amid protests from the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.
The Bill was passed after the members voted through division slips, with 83 voting in favour and 45 against the motion. MPs opposing the Bill, including Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge, walked out of the house right after voting.
“The Bill was passed despite that fact that we spoke about the deficiencies in it related to the Constitution,” Kharge, who is the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said. “We will walk out of the session in protest against the passage of the Bill.”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the clearing of the Bill was a “sad day” for democracy. “We will continue our struggle to restore power back to people,” he tweeted. “Whatever be the obstacles, we will continue doing good work. Work will neither stop nor slow down.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Upper House of the Parliament saw repeated adjournments as the Opposition spoke out against the bill.
Kharge had demanded that the Bill be sent to a select committee for consideration, according to ANI. “It [the Bill] is against the constitution,” he was quoted as saying by NDTV. “It should not become a law.”
AAP MP Sanjay Singh also voiced his opposition to the Bill. “I seek justice for the 2 crore people of Delhi, for 130 crore Indians, to seek justice from all members to save Constitution,” he told the House. “I tell all members – we will be here only if Constitution is there.” Singh alleged that the BJP introduced the Bill because it lost the Delhi elections twice, according to NDTV.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had to cut short her reply to the discussion on the Finance Bill as Opposition MPs shouted slogans against the Centre, the news channel reported.
Meanwhile, Union minister G Kishan Reddy claimed that the Bill sought to ensure proper functioning of the Delhi government. “We are making amendments to the Act brought in by Congress in 1991,” he said, according to ANI “These are not new.”
Reddy added that the Bill was within the Constitution’s ambit, according to The Hindu. He claimed that the BJP did not wish to take away power from the Delhi government. He also said that Delhi was not a full fledged State, and the lieutenant governor was its administrator.
Members of the Biju Janata Dal and YSR Congress had also walked out of the Rajya Sabha earlier during Wednesday’s session, according to ANI. On the same day, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien said the party had sent its members to Delhi to oppose the Bill.
The Rajya Sabha had witnessed uproar over the Bill on Tuesday as well. Kharge had said that the Bill would take away the rights of the Delhi government and destroy democracy.
National Capital Territory of Delhi Amendment Bill
The proposed law would significantly expand the powers of the Centre-appointed Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, at the cost of the elected Assembly. Among other things, the Bill proposes that the term “government” in the law that underpins the functioning of Delhi refers to the lieutenant governor and not the elected leadership. Additionally, the legislation requires the Delhi government to seek the opinion of the lieutenant governor before taking any executive action.
At the core of the matter is Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution, which gives Delhi the special character of a Union Territory, with a Legislative Assembly that has a lieutenant governor as its administrative head.
Delhi has an elected Assembly, which has been dominated by the Aam Aadmi Party for six years now. The party managed to get consecutive landslide victories in 2015 and 2020, with the Bharatiya Janata Party in a distant second place both times.
This has meant, however, that AAP’s tenure since 2015 has been marked by constant tussles between the government and the Centre, primarily through the office of the lieutenant governor. In addition to that, the tensions have continued as the Centre controls land, public order and the Delhi Police.