Govt tables Delhi services bill in Lok Sabha amid protests; Amit Shah says opposition ‘politically motivated’


PTI, Aug 1, 2023, 4:59 PM IST

The Union government on Tuesday tabled a contentious bill in Lok Sabha to replace the Delhi services ordinance amid vociferous protests by opposition MPs even as Home Minister Amit Shah asserted that Parliament is empowered to make laws for Delhi and termed the objection to it ”politically motivated”.

The proposed legislation, which gives the Delhi Lieutenant Governor a final say on the transfer and posting of officials of the city government, will strengthen the Central government’s control over the national capital. The bill was approved by the Union Cabinet on July 25.

Tabled by Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai on behalf of Shah, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023 seeks to reverse the effect of the Supreme Court verdict in May that gave the Delhi government control over administrative services.

As the opposition leaders stormed the well and tore papers questioning the introduction of the bill, Shah said,”Our Constitution allows the Parliament to make laws for Delhi. Any opposition to this bill has no constitutional basis and is politically motivated. There is no reason for the opposition to cite parliamentary procedure.” The Aam Aadmi Party’s lone MP Shushil Kumar Rinku, who was waiting for a chance to speak, also stormed into the Well in protest as the Home Minister started speaking on the Bill.

”I was not given a chance to speak…This is the murder of democracy…You are insulting Bhim Rao Ambedkar,” Rinku said, amid opposition slogans shouting against the government.

Rinku and Congress member T N Prathapan were seen throwing papers in front of the Chair amid the din.

Amidst the din, Speaker Om Birla said that time will be given for everyone to speak and castigated the opposition members for their behaviour.

”This kind of behaviour is not good. The country is watching,” he said. The Opposition has been protesting on the issue since the beginning of the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

”The bill vindicates the outrageous infringement of the government on the territory of the states. It is designed for digging up a graveyard for cooperating federalism. It aims to curb the powers of the Delhi government. The Centre wants to weaken democracy through the move,” said Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Adhir Chowdhury while discussing the introduction of the bill.

RSP leader, N K Premchandran said he is opposing the bill on three grounds.

”I am questioning the legislative competence of the government in tabling the bill. It is against the principles of federalism envisaged in the Constitution of India. The elected government in Delhi not having control over the bureaucrats will mean not having a government in Delhi itself,” he said.

Replying to Premchandran, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi said Parliament is ”fully competent” to pass the bill.

”If they want to talk about the merit of the bill let them discuss when there is consideration and passing,” he said.

Asserting that the bill violated Article 123, IUML MP Asaduddin Owaisi said the Constitution cannot be amended with a simple bill. ”It is a violation of the theory of separation of powers, and it is SC judgement of a five-membered bench from 2018 so that is why I am saying that the house does not have legislative competence for this bill and that is why I am opposing it,” he said.

TMC MP Saugata Roy also pointed out that the bill was outside the legislative competence of the government.

”The Supreme Court passed a judgement and now this bill has been brought to override it. This is a total abrogation of the legislative power of the government of Delhi under the Constitution,” said Roy.

Congress leader, Shashi Tharoor also opposed the bill on legislative competence.

”It undermines the Delhi NCT and The bill infringes the principle of representative democracy,” he said.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government has also challenged the ordinance in the Supreme Court. In the past couple of months, Kejriwal has also reached out to several opposition leaders to drum up support against the bill and get it blocked in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA is short of numbers on its own.

While the NDA is comfortably placed in Lok Sabha to get the bill passed with over 330 members, in Rajya Sabha also with the support of BJD, YSR Congress and some nominated and independent members it can cross the halfway mark.

BJD and YSR Congress have already said that they are likely to support the bill.

Around 109 MPs from the 26-member opposition bloc INDIA and some Independents such as Kapil Sibal are expected to vote against the bill, a senior leader said.

However, this will still be short of the halfway mark of 120 if all 238 existing members vote that day. The full strength of the House is 243 but there are some vacancies.

Of the 26 parties from the opposition grouping, at least 18 have a presence in Rajya Sabha and have 101 MPs collectively. Besides this bloc, the BRS (seven MPs) is also likely to vote against the bill while the YSR Congress (nine MPs) may back it.

The ruling NDA has 100 MPs in the Upper House while it will bank on nominated members and Independents, as well as other non-aligned parties that have voted with them in the past on various issues.

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