Delhi Assembly’s first Secretary says AAP has reduced it to a laughing stock
The last seven years have seen gradual erosion in the effectiveness and role of the Delhi Assembly, which can no longer even discuss, unlike in the past, vital issues on land and law and order
Few are aware of the hard work and pain that were involved in making Delhi Assembly give voice to the people of Delhi. But the present AAP regime has made Delhi Assembly a laughing stock.
It was in 1993 that Parliament amended Article 239 of the Constitution of India and laid down provisions for a council of ministers and an Assembly for Delhi. While amending the said Article Parliament ensured that Delhi would have an Assembly of 70 members but will have no jurisdiction over four subjects. The four subjects were land, Police, law and order and services.
To be more precise on Services it needs to be cleared that services concerned with Union Territories do not have separate services. People serving in Union territories are deemed to be in the service of the Union of India.
After this amendment, elections were held in Delhi and in 1993 BJP, under the leadership of Madan Lal Khurana, won and took charge. The government was formed but there was not much about the authority and functioning of the Chief Minister, Council of Ministers, Speaker, LG etc. The Assembly secretariat was also new.
Khurana summoned the first session of the Assembly for 19 days, and this session was a total failure because it was too long and everyone was new with not much clarity. The new Legislative Assembly had not even framed its rules.
Chief Minister M L Khurana and the then Speaker Charti Lal Goel called on Shivraj Patil, then Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and requested for an officer to deal with the situation. Shivraj Patil conveyed that they had to just name the officer and the officer would be transferred to the Delhi Government. The two gave my name and Shivraj Patil permitted me to join as Secretary of Delhi Assembly.
The biggest and real challenge for me was to frame rules which would be useful and practical for the people of Delhi. Delhi Assembly is very different from other state Assemblies of the country as all the other assemblies have the power to frame laws on all subjects on the state and concurrent lists. In Delhi four major subjects, directly connected to people of the state, do not fall under the purview of the State Assembly, which has no power over land, police, law & order and Services.
Rajniwas, the LG’s secretariat, insisted that rules be framed immediately. I conveyed to the Rajniwas that while power is divided between the LG and the Government of Delhi, power over land, police and law & order and Services etc. vested with the LG. I also conveyed that the Council of Ministers would inform every decision taken to the LG.
After deliberations, Rajniwas allowed subjects falling directly under the LG secretariat to be discussed in the Assembly. The Constitution of India has not given these subjects to Delhi Assembly and they continue to be subjects to be dealt by LG. But when we insisted that the Assembly would have little meaning if these subjects could not even be raised and discussed by elected representatives of the people, the then Rajniwas, showing large heartedness, gave us permission. Rules were framed accordingly allowing the Delhi Assembly Secretariat to admit questions on these subjects and to form committees to address issues related to these subjects.
It was because of this that the then Delhi Police Commissioner attended a session of the Assembly and listened to the discussion on law and order in Delhi. Ajay Raj Sharma, the then Police Commissioner, was summoned by speaker Prem Singh to listen to the discussion. Sharma came in uniform and sat in the officers’ gallery till the discussion was over although Delhi Assembly had no control over Delhi Police.
This system continued smoothly during the tenure of the next four Chief Ministers, namely Madan Lal Khurana, Sahib Singh Verma, Sushma Swaraj and Sheila Dikshit.
The situation began to deteriorate when the AAP stopped honouring rules. Basically, they seemed to have no knowledge of the Constitutional process. They are not aware of the basic difference between a Union Territory and a State.
Even father of the Indian constitution B R Ambedkar was not in favour of making Delhi a state because making it a state would have meant that the Government of India would have to function under a local administration. So, Delhi was kept a Union territory to be directly controlled by the Centre.
The last seven years have seen a gradual erosion of the Delhi Assembly; and it is now safe to say that it no longer serves any meaningful purpose. People of Delhi are the losers.
The first blow was struck when the AAP Government refused to send draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill to the Union Government for approval. Under the rules every Money Bill has to be approved by the Union Government before it is tabled. But though the Speaker certified the Bill to be a Money Bill, for unexplained reasons it was not shared with the LG and the Union Government. Hence permission to table it was not granted.
The second blow was struck by the decision not to prorogue the session. It was adjourned six years ago in 2015 and never been prorogued. Under the rules to convene a fresh session, permission from the LG (Governor in full-fledged states) needs to be obtained and the agenda shared with him. But Delhi Assembly session, perpetually adjourned, can now be convened at any time by the Speaker. It is an agenda-less wonder. It has lost out on its power to promulgate ordinances in emergencies because ordinances can be promulgated only when the Assembly is not in session!
There are very dangerous implications of this step. If there is a grave emergency stemming from natural calamity or war, Delhi government cannot promulgate any ordinance because the session is technically in progress and merely adjourned. Ordinances can be promulgated for six months only if the Assembly or Parliament is not in session.
The third blow was when the LG withdrew permission for the Delhi Assembly to discuss issues and admit questions related to land, police, law and order and services. Parliament in 1993 had kept these four subjects away from the purview of the Delhi Assembly. But the then Union Government and the LG allowed Delhi Assembly to admit questions on these subjects, deliberate and refer them to Assembly committees for making recommendations; although it had no power to legislate on these subjects.
The current regime has also dealt a massive blow to federalism, Federalism means that every state will discuss and make laws for its citizens. But this AAP government would discuss issues which are politically beneficial to them rather than issues pertaining to Delhi. They will discuss rape case in Unnao, Kathua and even decisions taken by the Union Government to confer, say, a Bharat Ratna to a former Prime Minister.
What if the assemblies of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh start discussing rapes in Delhi and the molestation case in Delhi Mohalla clinics? There will be utter chaos. Rules clearly forbid admission of any motion if it is not of primary concern of Delhi.
If President of India conferred Bharat Ratna to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi posthumously, can Delhi Assembly discuss the demerits of the decision taken by the Union government? This kind of a motion cannot be admitted even in the Lok Sabha, but it was discussed and a resolution passed by the Delhi Assembly. But the current regime seems to be least bothered about issues of Delhi.
People of Delhi are ultimately the losers as Delhi Assembly can no longer discuss issues pertaining to land, police, law and order and Services. Following constant tussle with the present Government over defiance of rules, the LG withdrew the permission granted earlier. Now no issues on these subjects can be discussed in the Assembly or in Assembly Committees. The Chief Secretary has been instructed to convey to the departments not to answer any query on these subjects.
Delhi Assembly has become meaningless as they cannot discuss major issues concerning people of Delhi. This is their biggest disservice to the people of Delhi. The current regime has ruined efforts of the last thirty years.
(The writer was the first Secretary of the Delhi Assembly)