New Delhi, Feb. 3: Arvind Kejriwal’s cabinet today cleared a draft Lokpal bill that covers all public servants, but it was a former chief minister who was the evening’s target.
The Delhi government has written to the President asking for an investigation into how Sheila Dikshit, the person Kejriwal unseated, authorised illegal colonies in the run-up to the 2008 Assembly elections.
In November last year, then Delhi Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin had indicted Dikshit and her Congress government for wrongly issuing provisional regularisation certificate to over 1,600 illegal colonies to gain “political mileage”.
“We endorsed the Lokayukta order,” PTI quoted minister Manish Sisodia as saying.
Several colonies had mushroomed on government, farm and forest land in Delhi and most don’t have water connection or sewerage lines. In his judgment, the Lokayukta said the Dikshit government, in a hurry to score brownie points ahead of the elections, didn’t provide these basic facilities.
The Lokayukta had forwarded his report to the President, who sought the government’s comments. The Kejriwal government has written back, recommending action. In its letter, the government said “in accordance with the Lokayukta report strict action should be taken as per the law”.
The recommendation appears to be aimed at addressing the complaint that Kejriwal, who had focused on levelling corruption allegations against the earlier government, had forgotten all about it after coming to power.
Now the ball is in the President’s court. Pranab Mukherjee can either sit on the recommendation or write to the Union home ministry suggesting action since law and order in the capital falls under the Centre.
The Aam Aadmi Party cabinet cleared the Delhi Lokpal Bill, 2014, at a meeting called at 5.30pm. “Congratulations,” a jubilant Kejriwal tweeted. “Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill passed by Delhi Cabinet…”
The legislation covers all public servants, from Group D employees to the chief minister. The anti-graft body will have the power to take action on its own based on news reports or any information.
A constitutional expert, however, said the bill might fail the legal test. “Delhi has not got full statehood yet. Whenever there is a conflict between a central legislation and Delhi’s law, the Union law will prevail,” Subash Kashyap said.
Another point is that any legislation that has a financial component needs prior approval from the lieutenant governor. The chief minister has, however, made it clear the bill would be first tabled in the Assembly. The Delhi Congress is likely to challenge the bill tomorrow.
The Delhi draft differs from the central law in several ways. One key difference: the central act says no Prime Minister, current or former, can be investigated for decisions under five categories — international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space. The Delhi draft has no such conditions attached to probing the actions of a current or former chief minister.