Cracking the whip on bureaucrats for allegedly refusing answers to questions raised by legislators in the Delhi Assembly, Speaker Ram Niwas Goel has sent around a dozen such matters to House panels for action since the Budget Session began on March 16. The matters involve officers of different departments of the Delhi government. Delhi Assembly committees will submit their reports and the House will take action based on recommendations by the panels, the speaker said.
The assembly’s Budget Session began on March 16 and is scheduled to end on April 3. Earlier this month, the Union Law Ministry in a communication to the Delhi Lt Governor’s office said legally the speaker cannot admit question on any “reserved subject” and departments concerned are refusing answers to questions asked by MLAs in the House on subjects such as land, police, services and law and order among others. The communication was sent by the Law Ministry through the Union Home Ministry on March 19.
“The L-G (Lt Governor) and officers cannot challenge the authority of the Assembly. Once the committees file their reports, action will be taken against officers who have either refused to answer questions or have not submitted proper reply,” Goel told PTI. On March 19, the speaker had forwarded a matter pertaining to vigilance department officers refusing to answer a written question by an MLA to the House’s Privilege Committee for probe.
Goel, on March 20, had forwarded four matters to the Question and Reference Committee after AAP MLAs had complained to him that officers had not submitted proper answers. However, bureaucrats, including Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash and his predecessor M M Nutty, have approached courts against the decisions of the House panels seeking relief.
The speaker said that on Wednesday, out of the 40 written questions raised by legislators in the House, departments declined to provide answers pertaining to 17 questions, saying they fall under the “reserved subject” category. In protest against the Centre and the L-G, Goel, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Delhi ministers and AAP legislators wore black bands on March 28.
Miffed with the move, the speaker had said the Centre had insulted the House by issuing directions to bureaucrats not to provide answer to questions asked by MLAs on “reserved subjects”. Since the AAP came to power in Delhi, the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation and bureaucracy have been at loggerheads on a range of issues.
There are around 70 IAS and 450 Delhi and Andaman and Nicobar Civil Services ( DANICS) officers working with the Delhi government. Since the alleged attack on Chief Secretary Prakash at the Chief Minister Kejriwal’s residence in February, IAS and DANICS officers have been boycotting meetings with Delhi ministers, except the ones pertaining to the ongoing Budget Session of the Delhi Assembly.