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Lokpal bill: LG joins issue with AAP, Kejriwal firm on stand


New Delhi, Feb 10 :

Setting up the possibility of a clash over the Jan Lokpal Bill, Delhi Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung Monday made it clear that the union government’s approval was mandatory before it was introduced in the assembly even as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal contested the stand.

Jung referred the matter to the union law and justice ministry for a final opinion as well as asked the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to reconsider the decision of passing the bill in the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium because of law and order problems cited by Delhi Police.

Najeeb Jung, Lt Governor, Delhi
Najeeb Jung, Lt Governor, Delhi

Kejriwal also hinted he will not budge from his stand, saying: “I have not taken oath on the home ministry’s order. We will protect the constitution. Several money bills were not sent to the centre by the previous Sheila Dikshit government.”

He expressed surprise about Delhi Police’s stand.

“It is the prime duty of Delhi Police to ensure the safety of people and if the police commissioner considers himself incompetent in doing so, should he continue to be on his post?” said a statement from the chief minister’s office.

Breaking his silence for the first time on the issue, Jung – whom the AAP had accused of being a Congress “agent” – disputed the arguments of the AAP government over its flagship anti-graft legislation which it wants to be introduced in the assembly without the union government’s approval.

He said the draft of the Jan Lokpal bill should have been sent to him prior to placing it before the cabinet and “this was not done”.

Though Jung referred the matter to the union law and justice ministry for a final opinion, he said “the predominant view was that there was a need to send the proposed bill for prior consent to the union government through him (Lt. Governor)”.

“To avoid any dispute in the matter and obtain full clarity, the Lt. Governor has referred the matter to the ministry on the constitutional position,” said a statement from Jung’s office.

On Feb 3, the Delhi cabinet had cleared the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill and decided to introduce it in the assembly – a measure which the Congress described as “unconstitutional” and even the Bharatiya Janata Party opposed.

The over one-month-old AAP government maintains that the union home ministry’s order that prior permission was needed for introducing the bill was unconstitutional and had written to Jung on this.

The Lt. Governor also accused the AAP government of ignoring the recommendations of its own departments over the issue.

“The finance department, the law department, and the administrative reforms department of the Delhi government had highlighted the fact that the prior recommendation of the Lt. Governor was required since the bill involved expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of the capital. The council of ministers did not accept these comments,” the Lt. Governor’s statement added.

The Congress, which props up the AAP government from outside, has reiterated it would not support the bill.

In another development, independent legislator Rambeer Shokeen said he would withdraw support to the AAP government as water and power issues have not been addressed by it.

The AAP, which won 28 seats in the December elections, had now an effective strength of 26 in the 70-seat Delhi assembly with one member being elected speaker while another was expelled. Besides the support of Shokeen and Janata Dal-United legislator Shoaib Iqbal, it has the backing of the eight Congress legislators, without which the anti-graft bill cannot become law.