Najeeb Jung needs some new advisers
How does one explain the Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung’s uncanny resistance to the state cabinet’s intention of tabling the Jan Lokpal Bill on 16 February in the Assembly? Can it only be the purported ‘unconstitutionality’ of the method in which the draft legislation would be introduced, a clause which itself has drawn criticism from an eminent legal luminary? Or, is it something else altogether, perhaps linked to Mr Jung’s meteoric rise in Delhi’s bureaucratic circle, post his career at the biggest Indian private sector conglomerate, Reliance Industries? Let’s not forget that Jung is an alumnus of Delhi’s elite St Stephen’s College, a 1973-batch IAS officer whose crucial stints in petroleum ministry played a major part in the privatisation of one of ONGC’s strategic oilfields that eventually ended up with a Reliance and British Gas consortium. Moreover, Jung even has had links with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, one of the central cogs in the giant wheel of corruption that was the 2G spectrum scam. Perhaps this tiny detail could help explain the man’s reticence in disturbing the entrenched corporate-political bonhomie that defines our system at every step, and how it might sit uneasy with a person who might have stakes in maintaining the Lutyens’ Delhi’s ‘power circuit’ and not derailing it by allowing a bill that definitely challenges the fundamentals of such a longstanding arrangement.
Given that the very amicable and certainly erudite L-G is also someone who ruled that without audits, the power discoms are likely to lose their distribution licences, it’s perhaps unfair to not give the man some benefit of doubt. Possibly, the L-G is still getting used to the AAP government’s confrontational and agitation-driven modus operandi, and therefore, his falling back on legislative loopholes could be attributed to his questioning mind in search of clarity. Even then, there appears to be a divided opinion on the so-called constitutionality of the ruling that requires the state government to seek prior assent from the Centre before introducing any draft legislation in the Assembly. As Soli Sorabjee, former solicitor general, has already underlined, there is really no embargo on the introduction of a bill that is not a Money Bill in the state assembly by the state cabinet and the opposition’s reliance on Rule 55(1) of Transaction of Business Rules to oppose tabling of the Jan Lokpal Bill has serious ‘legal infirmities.’ Perhaps the L-G should expand his ambit of legal advisers.