THE Centre’s move of issuing an ordinance on Friday night that effectively nullified a recent Supreme Court order that handed over crucial powers to the Delhi government drew condemnation from Opposition parties across the board, with the Modi government accused of “bulldozing the Constitutional federal framework”.
The ordinance seeks to create a National Capital Civil Service Authority that will have the power to recommend the transfer and posting of officials serving in Delhi.
While the Congress said the ordinance seeks to change “constitutional principles”, making it a “bizarre” piece of law, the RJD called it a “warning signal” to all elected governments. The JD(U) said what was happening “was not good for democracy”.
The Trinamool Congress accused the BJP of “making a mockery” of the Constitution and even the purpose of ordinances. In a tweet, its Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien attached a screenshot of what he called the Modi government’s “track record”, saying: “Before BJP, 1.5 ordinances for every 10 Bills. 2014-2021, 3.6 ordinances for every 10 Bills… * No data from Parliamentary Affairs Ministry since 2021.”
The CPI(M) said the move was a “direct assault” on the federal character of the Constitution and the norms of accountability and democratic governance as defined by the Supreme Court.
Senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi, who appeared for the Delhi government in the matter in the Supreme Court, said the Supreme Court in its May 11 judgment had quoted the Constitution, which gives Parliament the power to enact laws even for Delhi. “Nowhere it said that the basic architecture, intent and rationale for the creation of Delhi’s Constitutional status can be nullified by an act of Parliament or ordinance,” he said.
Senior RJD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha said the Modi government had made life very difficult for state governments. “They steal the mandate, and whenever they are not able to steal the mandate, they make sure that they put all kinds of stumbling blocks in the proper functioning of an elected government. What worries me is that even after the intervention of the Supreme Court last week, if the government could resort to do something in this manner, it tells you that the very idea of the structure of federal character of our Constitution, the idea of cooperative federalism, is not safe in the hands of the people who are running the present Union government,” he said.
Jha added: “I can only expect that the Supreme Court takes suo motu cognizance… That is what happens to their observation, to their judgment… if this is how the Union government is taking the ordinance route to curtail the powers of an elected government, it is a warning signal for all state governments. They must listen to it and must see this signal very carefully, come together and give a message to the government that you cannot bulldoze everything.”
Former JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP KC Tyagi said “bringing an ordinance in response to a Supreme Court order is an unhealthy precedence”. “We, as part of the NDA, had also raised the issue of full statehood to Delhi with the Congress during the tenure of (BJP leader) Madan Lal Khurana as Delhi CM. Such an ordinance to reverse a Supreme Court order and deny rights to the Delhi government in some matters is not a good omen.. What is happening is not good for democracy,” Tyagi told The Indian Express.
Strongly condemning the ordinance, the CPI(M) said: “Not only does this constitute contempt of court, it is a direct assault on the federal character of the Constitution and the norms of accountability and democratic governance as defined by the Supreme Court.”
Demanding the withdrawal of the ordinance, the CPI(M) said: “This defiance of the highest court of the land is a measure of the blatant authoritarian nature of the Modi government. The spurious reasons given, that it is in national interest, are an open insult to the court, as though the Constitution Bench was oblivious of national interest when it gave its landmark judgment. This concerns not just the people and government of Delhi but all citizens concerned about the bulldozing of the Constitutional federal framework by the Central government.”
The National Conference’s Omar Abdullah said: “What has been done to Delhi is a travesty and goes against the spirit of cooperative federalism.” However, he also took a shot at the AAP, which had backed the BJP government’s decision to scrap Article 370 and divide Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories.
“It’s a shame the AAP didn’t realise the danger of its actions when it happily sided with the BJP in August 2019. Jammu and Kashmir was dismembered and reduced to a union territory and the people have been disenfranchised for 5 years. Sadly your chickens have come home to roost now,” Omar tweeted.