“Centre returns 14 bills to Delhi govt., Kejriwal fumes” – screamed almost every headline in the country. Few of them gave us details of “some of the bills returned”. Few quoted officials and “sources” to explain why the bills have been returned. While AAP and Arvind Kejriwal resorted to their all familiar drama, as always, nuance and facts took a backseat in the main stream media.
So I went about checking about what exactly this “returning” business is about. The list of Delhi Assembly bills is here. I will elucidate on a few cases below.
1. The 400% increase in salaries
Remember, the furore over this? The “ideal politician”, Arvind Kejriwal, decides to increase the salaries of MLAs, Ministers, himself by nearly 400%. And when questioned about this move, he goes on a tangent and asks if Arnab Goswami earns 5 crore per year!
Anyways, coming back to the point – the Delhi government had to introduce 5, yes *FIVE*, bills to affect this increase. 5 out of the 14 bills returned relate to increase in the salary.
- The Members of Legislative Assembly of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Salaries, Allowances, Pension, etc.) (Amendment) Bill, 2015
- The Ministers of The National Capital Territory of Delhi (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill, 2015
- The Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill, 2015
- The Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill, 2015
- The Salary and Allowances of the Chief Whip in the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2015
One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that these bills have financial implications on the treasury of the government. Why are we talking about the financial implication? To know this, we have to go to the official website of the Delhi Assembly and read something.
“A Bill or amendment shall not be introduced into, or moved in the Legislative Assembly except on the recommendation of the Lieutenant, Governor, if such Bill or amendment makes provision for any of the following matters, namely (am pasting only relevant section):
- the amendment of the law with respect to any financial obligations undertaken or to be undertaken by the Government of the Capital;”
- “the appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated Fund of the Capital;”
What the verbiage means is this - If any bill imposes any financial obligations on the government, it has to first go to the LG and not to the Delhi Assembly. This rule is not picked up from random website or from a “source” – this is picked up the official website of the Delhi Assembly!
Now, if Kejriwal decides to willfully flaunt rules, and then cry victim – why is the mainstream media giving him more Oxygen, instead of questioning him on this? Why can’t Kejriwal consider working within the rules? Is it because he is above the law, just because he won 67 out of 70 seats?
2. The Jan Lokpal Bill
In 2015, a renewed version of the 2013 bill was passed by this Assembly. The 2013 bill was not allowed to be introduced in the Assembly because it does not seek LG’s approval. And in 2015, just because he has a brute majority, Kejriwal has repeated the exact same mistake. My bet – he did this knowingly.
Now, why does this bill need the LG’s approval? Let’s go back to the same section we mentioned above – setting up of Jan Lokpal institution requires money, which means “financial obligation” and therefore has to first go to LG, and then to the Assembly, irrespective of the majority you have in the Assembly. And to the best of my knowledge, such institutions are funded though the “Consolidated fund” of the government.
Secondly, and most importantly – read some clauses:
- “Janlokpal may, for the purpose of conducting any inquiry or investigation, utilise the services of any officer or organisation or investigation agency of the Central Government or the Government or any other government of any state or Union Territory”
Where do we begin with, to counter this argument? Kejriwal wants powers to ask any government in the entire country to go on a wild goose chase for his allegations?
The act tactically mentions later that:
- “if any law requires any prior consent or approval to be obtained for securing the assistance of any investigating agency or specialized investigating agency, the Janlokpal shall ensure all requisite compliances.”
*If any law*? To utilize or prosecute employees not belonging to your government, it *is* required to show cause, and then take necessary permission. But I am sure Kejriwal knows this, and has purposely inserted this clause.
- “For the purpose of inquiry or investigating into any matter, any officer or organisation or agency whose services are utilised under sub-section (5), may subject to the superintendence and direction of the Janlokpal exercise the powers of a civil court to ensure, - (a) summon and enforce the attendance of any person and examine him; “
Are you afraid yet? Kejriwal wants the powers to “summon any person” while investigating “any matter”. Any person, Any matter, Any where! Can you even recollect the last time such a vague law was even attempted to be written?
- “Subject to the provisions of this Act, on receiving complaints from the Government or from members of the public or suo motu, the Janlokpal may proceed to inquire or investigate into the allegation of ‘corruption’ occurring in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.”
The key phrase being – “occurring in the National Capital Territory of Delhi” – which means Kejriwal’s Lokpal will have the powers to investigate central government employees too. Remember, any person, any matter, any where?!
Just for reference, let’s check out Lokayukta act of, say, Karnataka – the act is applicable to “public servants”, mainly of the state government or of any other officers deputed on duty with the state government. This is how clarity is given, and not by saying “any person, any matter”.
And of course the caveat is this:
- “Provided that no inquiry shall be instituted on grounds of technical or procedural lapses in acts performed by public servants in good faith during the course of their official duties unless there is malafide””
Good faith! Do you want to take a guess on who will get to decide “good faith”?
The bill has been designed for rejection. This bill has been perfectly designed for Kejriwal and company to create drama and cry victim. And of course a compliant media will ensure that only their side of the story is amplified and spread.
3. Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Bill
This is the famous “Office of Profit” bill that Kejriwal passed in retrospective effect. The graphic below explains the chicanery involved, so we needn’t go any further.
So that completes 7 out of the 14 bills. It is amply clear that all the bills were clearly in violation of one or more laws, and therefore were designed to be rejected. What about the other 7?
There is a “Financial memorandum” in the “The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (Amendment) Act 2015” – which means LG’s prior approval is needed. There is no real reason why the LG will not approve the introduction of bills such as these – all it does is changing eligibility dates to bring two laws in consonance. Kejriwal could have simply followed existing law and could have easily gotten this bill to become an act. I now begin to doubt if he wants such acts to be even passed in the first place!
The “The Delhi Netaji Subhas University of Technology Bill, 2015” envisages conversion of the College into a University. Again – a simple following of the procedure would have ensured that this act would have been passed by now!
From initial reading, the other 5 bills do not seem to have any “financial obligations” on the government. Newspapers seem to indicate that irrespective of this, it is required that the Ministry of Home Affairs vets all bills to understand if there is a “financial obligation” on the government of the Union Territory.
Fellow tweeter, Ashutosh (no, not THE Ashutosh!), has exposed in a series of tweets here, the draconian provisions of the proposed Delhi statehood bill (includes amendments to the Constitution too!). The reason for checks and balances in our governance system is precisely because of the examples like above. If getting a majority meant ignoring law, this country would have plunged into chaos long time back.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I suspect that Kejriwal and his coterie know about this all along. The 67/70 victory has made them arrogant beyond imagination, and they are now taking their gullible supporters for a ride! I hope that this article serves as an eye-opener to all those who are willing to listen to reason.