Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019: Govt proposes removing Congress chief as trustee of historic site

The current amendment seeks 'to delete the President of the Indian National Congress' as a trustee and to have the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha as a trustee.

FP Staff August 01, 2019 16:43:12 IST
Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019: Govt proposes removing Congress chief as trustee of historic site
  • The Bill — which amends the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951 — seeks to remove the president of the Congress party as a permanent trustee

  • The move comes in during the centenary commemoration of the massacre

  • Currently, the trust is chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and has president of the Congress on board

The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by Union Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel on 8 June.

The Bill — that amends the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951 — seeks to remove the president of the Congress party as a permanent trustee to the Jallianwala Bagh Trust, was passed in the winter session of the 16th Lok Sabha, but was rejected by the Rajya Sabha, and hence had lapsed after the dissolution of the House.

Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Amendment Bill 2019 Govt proposes removing Congress chief as trustee of historic site

A memorial at the Jallianwala Bagh. Wikimedia Commons

The 1951 Act provides was enacted for the erection and management of a national memorial for those who lost their lives or were injured in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 13 April, 1919. In addition, it creates a Trust to manage the National Memorial and entails rules for the composition of the trust, including nominating trustees and their tenure.

In 2006, the Act was amended to change the composition of the trust, wherein nominated trustees were given a fixed term of five years, and auditing the accounts of the trust were enabled.

The current Amendment seeks "to delete the President of the Indian National Congress” as a trustee and to have the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha as a trustee. The bill mentions that in the case there is no Leader of Opposition, then the Leader of the single largest Opposition Party will be made the trustee.

The Bill also seeks to empower the Central government to terminate a nominated trustee before the expiry of his/her term.

The move comes in during the centenary commemoration of the massacre — in which the British Army opened fire at a peaceful gathering of unarmed people in Amritsar under the command of General Reginald Dyer.

However, the Congress has cried foul on the introduction of the Bill, with Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor saying, “The Bill should be stopped. It is a national memorial, do not betray our history and heritage," citing the grand old party's long association with the trust.

Responding to the Opposition in Parliament, Patel said the Congress had not done anything for the memorial in the last 40 to 50 years.  The government claims the system of nomination is outdated, and there “cannot be any entitlement on such issues. No political party can claim hold over a trust like Jallianwala Bagh Memorial”.

Currently, the trust is chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and has president of the Congress (former party chief Rahul Gandhi for now), Union culture minister, leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, the chief minister and governor of Punjab on board.

Besides, eminent personalities are nominated by the Centre as the members of the trust. For instance, in 2013, Virendra Kataria, Ambika Soni and Harvendra Singh Hanspal were nominated in for a period of five years. However, the Bill adds a provision to allow the Central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of his term without assigning any reason.

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