Delhi assembly panel to inquire whether L-G's message constitutional

Pradeep Kumar / On 2017-10-12 07:55:06

A nine-member Delhi assembly committee will look into the constitutionality of Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal's move to write a message to the house without the aid of the council of ministers.

The committee will also look into concerns voiced by Baijal over the rules governing Department Related Standing Committees (DRSCs) in Delhi.

A motion to form the committee was moved by Aam Aadmi Party MLA Somnath Bharti and passed by the assembly.

"To examine if there was any unconstitutionality perpetuated by the Lt Governor in sending the said message without the aid and advice of the council of ministers of the house," the motion to set up the committee read.

During a discussion in the house, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia termed Baijal's message to the house as "unconstitutional".

On September 13, Baijal had sent a "message" to assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel that the DRSCs have "powers in excess of powers enjoyed by Standing Committees of the Lok Sabha".

The DRSCs were formed to look into developmental works of various departments and hold the executive accountable.

Baijal said the "excess powers" violated the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act of 1991 and asked for withdrawal of newly inserted rules of Delhi assembly that gave the committees the "excess powers".

On September 20, responding to the message, Goel wrote to Baijal that the Indian constitution empowers "each legislative body to frame its own Rules of Procedure".

Goel said that the presumption that the Delhi assembly has exceeded its powers "just because the Rules are not identical to the Rules of the Lok Sabha is fundamentally wrong".

About the Lt Governor's message, he said that if it gives the impression to assembly members that this "whole exercise (Baijal's message) is aimed at abetting errant officers who want to escape legislative oversight, I am afraid, I cannot find fault with them".

AAP MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj said that the Lt Governor was afraid that he would be exposed by the inquiries by the committees.

Sisodia said the committees have every right to ask officers how the government funds were being spent.

Quoting a Supreme Court order Sisodia said: "The question which arises for our consideration, however, is whether the Governor can address a message to the assembly in his own discretion without seeking the aid and advice of the Chief Minister."

AAP lawmaker Alka Lamba asked if the MLAs and Speaker did not have a problem with the committees who else has it.

She termed the whole issue a "conspiracy" and said that Delhi is the 11th assembly in the country to have such committees, adding that the Manipur assembly has 13 committees while Delhi has only seven.

Leader of Opposition and BJP MLA Vijender Gupta said the committees must call Ministers and hold them responsible and not the executive.

He said the new rules that give "extra powers" to the committees should be removed.

AAP MLAs, who spoke during the discussion, said it was the first time a ruling party was trying to hold officials accountable but the opposition was against it.

Last month, the AAP accused the Lieutenant Governor of trying to "scuttle" the DRSCs which, the party said, were holding government officers accountable.

Bharadwaj had said these committees looked into various issues like health, roads, canals and unauthorised colonies.

On September 9, a Bharatiya Janata Party delegation met President Ram Nath Kovind and sought his intervention in the functioning of the AAP government in Delhi, which it dubbed "unconstitutional and undemocratic", referring to the DRSCs.

The delegation said the committees were taking over the executive, judicial and investigative functioning of the Delhi government and they were constituted illegally.

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