Delhi Jan Lokpal: Is Kejriwal right about L-G jumping the gun?

Bhushan disagreed that the Delhi bill is in opposition to what Anna Hazare had envisaged during the Jan Lokpal agitation.

FP Politics February 08, 2014 09:05:25 IST
Delhi Jan Lokpal: Is Kejriwal right about L-G jumping the gun?

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today raised eyebrows when he shot off a scathing letter to Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, severely criticising him for seeking the opinion of Solicitor General of India Mohan Parasaran on the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill, even when the bill had not reached Jung officially.

"Why were the views of the Solicitor General sought when the Bill was not with the L-G? It appears from the events that have transpired that neither the Congress nor the BJP wants voting on the Delhi Jan Lokpal in the Assembly. And on what basis did the Solicitor General say that the bill, which was not even tabled in the Assembly, needs Presidential assent or permission from the Centre? This makes a mockery of the constitution and the Delhi Assembly," AAP spokesperson and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan told CNN-IBN during a panel discussion.

Delhi Jan Lokpal Is Kejriwal right about LG jumping the gun

Arvind Kejriwal (R) takes his oath of office as chief minister of Delhi from Lt Governor Najeeb Jung (L) at a ceremony in New Delhi on 28 December 2013. AFP

The legal panel participating in the discussion also aired similar views.

"This is gross constitutional impropriety by the Delhi L-G. The Assembly is supreme in the state. The prior sanction of the L-G is absolutely not necessary as per provisions of Article 255 of the Indian Constitution. The L-G has jumped the gun in this case," said senior lawyer Dushyant Dave.

Former additional solicitor general Bishwajit Bhattacharyya was of the opinion that there is no violation of the Indian Constitution if the Delhi government via the state Assembly seeks to make the Jan Lokpal law.

"The Delhi Assembly has the power to legislate criminal laws through the concurrent list. At present an entire shadow-boxing is going on. No one has even seen the Delhi bill," Bhattacharyya said.

However, both representatives from the national parties — Congress and the BJP — refused to agree with the legal pundits.

"The state legislature has no power to pass it. This is in contravention of Article 239 AA (sub clause 3 and sub clause 3A) of the Indian Constitution. They can't bypass constitutional procedures to push their own bill," said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

"They have not implemented even the existing Lokpal and Lokayukta Act passed by Parliament last year. Their bill can be an improvement of the existing one. Why are they shying away from implementing the law which was endorsed Arvind Kejriwal's guru Anna Hazare?" Surjewala asked.

Bhushan disagreed that the Delhi bill is in opposition to what Anna Hazare had envisaged during the Jan Lokpal agitation.

"The Lokpal Bill passed in Parliament is useless. It does not cover states and it also allows to enact similar laws in the states. The Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill will follow Anna Hazare in letter and spirit with appropriate modifications," he said.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra tried to point out that the Presidential nod is essential because it would require the use of Consolidated Fund of India to implement the Jan Lokpal Bill.

"What everyone has missed is the need to use the Consolidated Fund of India to implement the Jan Lokpal in Delhi. Why can't they simply amend the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013? Why is Kejriwal acting on political needs? We are not questioning the draft of the bill but the constitutionality of the whole process. This seems to be a grand escape route for AAP to go back again into the dharna mode," Patra said.

However, the legal stalwarts did not give in to this reasoning.

"The state laws can be in conflict with the Central laws. If the President gives his assent it is a good law, if not it is a bad law but it exists. It is sad to see both Congress and the BJP using the office of the L-G, and the Solicitor General for their own purpose," Dave said.

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