TT Epaper
The Telegraph
 
CIMA Gallary

Lokpal bill salvo at Jung

New Delhi, Feb. 7: A debate on whether Delhi’s lokpal bill needs the Centre’s clearance for tabling led chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to warn lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung today “not to let (the) Constitution die” under Congress “pressure”.

According to media reports, Jung had yesterday sought legal opinion from solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran and was advised the Centre’s nod was a must before the Aam Aadmi Party government’s signature anti-corruption bill could be tabled in the Assembly.

Parasaran had reportedly explained that since Parliament had passed a Lokpal and Lokayukta Act last year, any new lokpal law drafted by a state needed the President’s assent before tabling to ensure it didn’t clash with the central law.

In such cases, the President is expected to act on the recommendations of the Centre, which vets the draft and forwards it to him.

By last night, the purported advice had made headlines, prompting Kejriwal’s party colleague Ashutosh to dub Jung a “Congress agent” out to “destablise” the state government.

In an emotionally charged letter to Jung today, Kejriwal expressed surprise that Parasaran’s (purported) advice had reached the media before the chief minister had been told.

“Imagine my surprise when I saw the news, especially because I had forwarded a copy of the bill to you that very evening. So on which bill did you seek (the) solicitor-general’s opinion? And which bill did he advise you on?” Kejriwal asked.

At the beginning of his three-page letter, the chief minister had apologised to Jung saying the letter might appear harsh.

After the Delhi cabinet cleared the draft Delhi Lokpal Bill 2014 on Monday, the state government had informed Jung that it had scheduled a special Assembly session on February 13 to table it. A copy of the bill was forwarded on Thursday evening.

“I know that you are under pressure from the Congress and the home ministry (to ensure the bill isn’t tabled),” Kejriwal wrote today.

“All this is because they know that if the bill is passed, then many of them will be sent to jail.”

Kejriwal warned Jung: “It is for you to decide how much pressure can you bear. You have sworn loyalty to (the) Constitution and not to any party or (the) home ministry. Do not let (the) Constitution die.”

He wrote that the state’s senior-most bureaucrats had vetted the draft bill. He claimed that former Punjab and Haryana chief justice Mukul Mudgal and senior advocates Pinaki Mishra, K.N. Bhatt and P.V. Kapoor had told him the Centre’s sanction was not needed to table it.

There has been no response from the lieutenant governor’s office to Kejriwal’s allegation of Jung being under Congress pressure.

Parasan shrugged off the controversy, telling reporters: “I am not bothered about the politics. I have given an opinion based on the Constitution. It is for the lieutenant governor to act as he deems fit.”

Both the BJP and the Congress attacked Kejriwal. “Maybe it (tabling) will take two days more but why can’t they follow due legal process?” BJP leader V.K. Malhotra said.

Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely said: “He (Kejriwal) is an Indian citizen and not a Pakistani. He has to work according to the Indian constitution. Can an aam aadmi be above the Constitution?”

Defamation suit

The Supreme Court today issued notices to Kejriwal and three party colleagues, asking them to appear personally before a magistrate hearing a defamation suit filed by Union law minister Kapil Sibal’s son Amit Sibal.

Kejriwal, education minister Manish Sisodia, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Shazia Ilmi have four weeks to respond.

Last year, the Aam Aadmi Party leaders had accused Sibal of a conflict of interest after the minister reversed a decision on telecom major Vodafone’s tax liability. They claimed Amit was a lawyer for Vodafone and alleged that Sibal had received a part of the settlement.

A magistrate had summoned the four accused last July but they secured a high court exemption from personal appearance and permission to approach the lower court for discharge from the case.

On Amit’s appeal, the apex court bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and S.A. Bobdy stayed the high court order.