Hours before he stepped down for failing to table his showpiece janlokpal bill in the assembly, outgoing Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal reiterated in the face of protests that the legislation was not unconstitutional.
"It is being said that we did something unconstitutional by trying to introduce the jan lokpal bill... Nowhere in the constitution is written that we should seek Centre's approval," Kejriwal said in the House, as BJP and Congress members triggered a din.
Amid the bickering over the legislation, a PIL was filed in the Delhi high court, seeking to declare as "unconstitutional" the law which gives the lieutenant governor the power to refer certain bills to the Centre before they are tabled in the assembly.
A bench of Justice BD Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul posted the matter for further hearing on February 18, saying it was not clear at the moment under which statutory provision the L-G had refused to give assent to the bill's tabling. The HC also asked for a copy of the bill by the next date of hearing.
In the assembly, Speaker MS Dhir read out a communiqué sent by L-G Najeeb Jung, who said under Section 22 (3) of the Government of NCT of Delhi Act 1991, the jan lokpal bill was a financial bill and was to be sent to the L-G for his nod.
According to Jung, as per Rule 55 (1) of Transaction of Business of Govt of NCT Rules 1993, the L-G is required to make a prior reference to the central government before the bill is introduced in the assembly.
"The bill has not yet been duly placed before me...
"As the jan lokpal bill is being introduced in the legislative assembly without following the procedure... I hereby send the message under Section 9 (2) of the Govt of NCT of Delhi Act, 1991... not to consider the bill unless it is introduced with the recommendations of the L-G," Jung's message said.
In the PIL filed before Delhi HC, advocate RK Kapoor, however, argued, "Rule 55 of the business rules is clearly arbitrary and violative of the provisions of article 14 of the Constitution of India."
But, additional solicitor general Rajeeve Mehra told the court the jan lokpal bill was similar to a financial bill and required the L-G's nod before being tabled.
"The bill involves expenditure from the consolidated funds of India. You will have to create infrastructure, employment that ultimately have to be drawn from the consolidated funds of the capital."
The anti-graft bill, a key campaign point of the AAP before the assembly elections in December last year, had drawn the battle lines on February 3, the day it was cleared by the Delhi cabinet.
Jung's letter to the assembly came after he sought the views of solicitor general Mohan Parasaran, who opposed the bill.
Amid the tug of war, Speaker Dhir had told HT in an interview the bill did not require a nod from the President or the lieutenant governor.
According to him, jan lokpal is not a 'money bill'. "The jan lokpal bill is a financial bill and does not need the L-G's prior approval. But before it is passed by the House, the L-G must approve it," he had said.
With PTI inputs