In the Parliament: Both houses have smooth run for second day

New Delhi: Putting behind the ruckus disrupting all three days of sittings last week in the second part of the budget session, Parliament continued to run smoothly for the second day on Tuesday following a truce between the government and the Opposition to rush the agenda and end the session early.

Indications are that the session may end this weekend or on Sunday to let the members plunge into the electioneering in the ongoing assembly campaigns in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Union Territory of Puducherry.

The Rajya Sabha finished discussion on the budget demands of Jal Shakti and passed two Bills -- the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill and the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill -- while rising on schedule in the evening, leaving discussion on the budget demands of the Railways for Wednesday.

Modi govt misquotes SC to usurp Delhi govt's powers

The Modi Government cited the Supreme Court rulings in the Lok Sabha on Monday as its compulsions to bring the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, though it is a clear attempt to usurp the powers of the elected Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) of Arvind Kejriwal and reduce the Delhi Assembly as a powerless institution.

It has, however, misquoted the country's top court as a justification for bringing the Bill, to run the government of Delhi through the Lieutenant Governor (LG). The Bill introduced by a minister of state for home says it relies on two judgments of a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on July 4, 2018 and a 2-judge Bench decision on February 14, 2019.

Kejriwal and the Congress have rightly said that the BJP thrice failed to get a majority in Delhi Assembly elections and so it wants to usurp powers to rule in Delhi without getting elected to form a govt.

The thrust of the Bill lies in Section 44 which inserts a proviso, making it mandatory for the Delhi govt to seek opinion of the LG before taking any executive action in pursuance to the decisions by the council of ministers or any other decision under any law in force in the capital.

This proviso, however, runs contrary to the Constitution Bench's ruling that had made it clear that the LG is "bound to act on aid and advice of the council of ministers" in the matters where Delhi government acts in exercise of its executive and legislative powers, except relating to three subjects -- Police, land and law and order."

Instead of Delhi government required to take consent of the LG as stipulated in the Bill, the Constitution Bench has made it clear while examining the Transaction of Business Rules, 1993, that "a careful perusal of these rules nowhere suggests that the communication of the Lieutenant Governor is to obain his concurrence or permission."

The Court, in fact, went on to elaborate that "requiring prior concurrence of the LG would absolutely negate the ideals of representative government and democracy conceived for the NCT of Delhi by Article 239AA of the Constitution....Decisions of the council of ministers must be communicated to the LG, but this does not mean that the concurrence of the LG is required."

At least at seven different places, the Constitution Bench stresses that Delhi Assembly has the legislative and executive competence over all subjects except three. The Bill before the Lok Sabha cites the same judgment to give an upper hand to the Centre and its appointee LG in administration of the capital.

The 2019 judgment also acknowledges that the LG must be informed of all decisions of the elected government, but this did not mean a requirement of concurrence by him. It says: "We would like to add that normally, and generally, the LG is expected to honour the wisdom of the council of ministers. He is also expected to clear the files expeditiously and is not supposed to sit over them unduly."

Another key amendment in the Bill seeks to invalidate the the rules made retrospectively by the legislative assembly of Delhi or by the committees and house panels to consider matters of "day-to-day administration of the capital" or conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions. It is a clear attempt to scuttle the peace and harmony committee set up by the Assembly to probe the riots in February 2020 in north-east Delhi.

The AAP leaders say this amendment was a clear attempt to stop the inquiry exposing the role of the local BJP leaders and how the Facebook then headed by a pro-BJP chief allowed these leaders to circulate messages to create tension and none of these leaders were arrested by Delhi Police since it comes under the Centre. An inquiry into these aspects would have exposed the top BJP leaders' hand in the riots.

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