Rajya Sabha Passes the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023
On 7th August 2023, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill of 2023 passed Rajya Sabha with the support of 131 Members of Parliament (MPs). “Division” was requested after a voice vote in Rajya Sabha. Later, the bill passed the Rajya Sabha through voting using division slips. Division votes were not recorded using automatic vote recording machines due to technical issues in the automatic vote recording machine.
Bill in Lok Sabha
On 3rd August 2023, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was passed through a voice vote in the midst of an Opposition walkout. Home Minister Amit Shah highlighted the dual stance of the Opposition, emphasizing their lack of interest in bills aimed at public welfare. He pointed out how nine bills had been passed without debate due to Opposition protests, illustrating their focus on maintaining alliances rather than addressing public needs.
Shah specifically targeted the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), accusing them of opposing the Delhi Bill to conceal corruption. He predicted that AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal would abandon the alliance once the bill passed, implying a selfish motive behind their opposition.
The discussions in the Lower House carried evident political implications, with Shah asserting that the Narendra Modi government would secure a majority in the 2024 Lok Sabha election regardless of alliances formed by other parties.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader Dayanidhi Maran retorted, suggesting that the INDIA bloc would persist strongly, hinting at the uncertainty of political dynamics in the forthcoming elections.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury challenged the bill on the grounds of violating the Supreme Court’s May 11 order that empowered the Delhi Assembly to make decisions about civil services in Delhi. He expressed concern that this amendment would grant bureaucrats the authority to overrule an elected Chief Minister.
After more than four hours of debate, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla suspended AAP member Sushil Kumar Rinku from Punjab for the remainder of the Monsoon session. Rinku had displayed disrespect towards the Chair by throwing papers when the Bill was introduced.
In his response to the debate, Home Minister Shah stated that the BJP and Congress had coexisted without major conflicts in the National Capital since 1993, highlighting the 2015 change in Delhi’s government as a turning point marked by confrontation.
Shah referred to historical figures like Jawaharlal Nehru, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Sardar Patel, C. Rajagopalachari, and Rajendra Prasad, who opposed granting full statehood to Delhi. He argued that the Kejriwal government’s objections to the Delhi services Bill were driven by its desire to control departments like vigilance, which scrutinize policies and expenditures.
Congress member Shashi Tharoor labeled this situation as “coercive federalism,” while AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi warned that this Bill could set a precedent for the Centre to convert cities into Union Territories.
Minister of State for External Affairs and Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi emphasized India’s quasi-federal structure, while Congress MP Shashi Tharoor criticized the trend as “coercive federalism.”
YSRCP MP P.V. Midhun Reddy supported the Bill, regarding it as unique, and hoped it wouldn’t be replicated for other states. Biju Janata Dal member Pinaki Misra voiced his support, stating that this type of legislation is suitable only for territories like Delhi, given its distinct status.
Amit Shah reiterated his willingness to discuss and debate the Manipur situation for any duration in the House.
Bill in Rajya Sabha
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill was ratified in the Rajya Sabha on 7th August 2023, following its clearance in the Lok Sabha four days earlier. The Centre has presented this legislation as a means to sustain a balanced democratic and administrative framework in the governance of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
The bill secured passage with 131 affirmative votes and 102 dissenting votes. Aside from the NDA constituents, the bill gained support from members of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP).
During the proceedings, the House rejected the amendments proposed by the Opposition and a motion to forward the bill to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha. Deputy Chairman Harivansh, who oversaw the voting process, additionally initiated an investigation into the claims of certain MPs who contended that their names had been included in the proposed select committee without their consent.
In his response to the debate, Union Home Minister Amit Shah clarified that the intent behind the bill is to establish a corruption-free and pro-people governance structure in Delhi. Shah emphasized that the Congress regime’s original bill remained unchanged. He highlighted that Delhi, designated as a Union Territory in the Constitution, cannot be governed in the same manner as a state. He contended that the previous Chief Ministers were content with the Centre’s role, which was focused on development. Shah further asserted that the ongoing efforts are aimed at generating chaos in Delhi.
Shah dismissed the notion that the Central Government is undermining a Supreme Court order. He reiterated that the Centre has the authority to draft laws for all Union Territories, including services. He underlined Parliament’s prerogative to amend and nullify Acts enacted by the Assembly.
Senior Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi initiated the debate by asserting that the bill is entirely unconstitutional and fundamentally anti-democratic. He argued that the legislation infringes upon the regional voice and aspirations of Delhi’s citizens, while also violating principles of federalism and democratic norms.
Congress leader P. Chidambaram raised concerns about certain provisions in the bill. He questioned the rationale behind constituting a three-member authority chaired by the Chief Minister, especially given that a quorum could be achieved with only two members and that unanimous decisions could be overridden by the Lieutenant Governor.
Former Chief Justice and MP Ranjan Gogoi defended the bill, sparking criticism from Congress. Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal later asserted that the Centre must oppose the notion that protecting the basic structure of the Constitution is unnecessary.
Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023 successfully passed the Parliament and the Presidential assent is awaited.
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