In Delhi assembly, AAP govt set to sharpen attack on Centre

  • HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 27, 2015 14:21 IST

The AAP government on Wednesday will take its confrontation with the Centre over its notification backing Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung further by adding a few amendments to a private member's resolution against it and sending it to the President.

Outside the House, Aam Aadmi Party workers began a protest against the Narendra Modi-led government's one year in power. The workers, who have gathered at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, also accused the government of interfering in Delhi's governance and are opposing the NDA's flagship land acquisition amendment bill.

AAP lawmaker Somnath Bharti on Tuesday had moved the resolution contending that the May 21 notification was "contrary to and violative of the provisions of the Constitution of India".

Bharti, who was law minister in the 49-day AAP government of 2013-14, called the notification unconstitutional and invalid.

He said the Delhi assembly, where the AAP has 67 members against the BJP's 3, has appealed to President Pranab Mukherjee to invoke article 143 to define the powers and responsibilities of an elected government.

Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia too had moved a resolution in the assembly against the central notification curbing the Delhi government's powers, underscoring the ruling Aam Aadmi Party's pressure on the Centre to give more administrative elbow room.

"Democratic spirit of the Constitution was sidelined while issuing this notification. It undermines the Constitution," Sisodia said on the first day of the two-day emergency assembly session.

Taking the tussle with Jung a notch higher, AAP legislator Adarsh Shashtri demanded that a resolution be passed in the assembly to amend the Constitution to enable state legislatures to impeach governors and L-Gs.

"We should pass a resolution asking Parliament to review the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission and the articles 155 and 156 of the Constitution to allow state legislatures to have the power to impeach governors and L-Gs," said Shastri.

Shastri said this was his personal view, which some experts called absurd.

"There is no such provision. The President appoints the lieutenant governor and only he can remove him. Impeachment is a difficult process for removing officials like a judge. One House of the Parliament frames charges, the other investigates," said SK Sharma, a former Lok Sabha secretary who also served as Delhi assembly secretary from 1993 to 2002.

Defending the MHA notification, BJP legislative party leader Vijendra Gupta said that the Centre, through the notification, did not add new rules and but had just clarified on the existing ones.

"There was controversy recently between the LG and Delhi government over the appointment of some officers. To clear all confusion, MHA then issued this notification to clarify on the existing rules. No new rule has been mentioned in the notification," Gupta said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had criticised the AAP saying the people of Delhi would have been happier if its government would have called a special assembly session to address the immediate issues in the national capital rather than re-writing the Constitution.

BJP president Amit Shah attributed the tussle "to a matter of interpretation of the Constitution" rather than a confrontation.

Centre's move

The NDA government's notification issued last week had also barred Delhi's anti-corruption branch (ACB) from registering cases against officers and political functionaries of the central government.

However, the Delhi high court ruled on Monday that the ACB had the authority to investigate central government officials, including the city's police personnel.

Chastened by the high court rap, the home ministry on Tuesday decided not to make an issue out of the transfer of 9 officials by the Arvind Kejriwal government.

It is not clear if the Narendra Modi government will make a presidential reference to request the Supreme Court to interpret the constitutional provisions.

The Union home ministry has, however, started seeking legal opinion after the Delhi high court termed its notification, giving the L-G absolute powers in some matters, as "suspect".

Ministry officials have consulted with several leading lawyers on various aspects of the notification and the opinion given to Delhi government by legal minds like KK Venugopal and Gopal Subramanium.

"All options are open. Since Monday's order came from a single bench of the Delhi high court, options are open either to approach a division bench or move to the Supreme Court. But no decision has been taken yet. We are still studying," said an official.

"We have grounds to challenge it so as not to allow further confusion on the issue," said another official.

Officials said the central government has no problem with transfers made by CM Kejriwal as he is empowered to effect reshuffle officers below secretary level.

The turf war between Kejriwal and Jung started after the latter appointed senior bureaucrat Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary against the wishes of the AAP government.

Kejriwal called on Jung before going to the assembly on Tuesday, their first meeting after the confrontation began.

(With agency inputs)

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