In an unprecedented development, West Bengal Speaker Biman Banerjee Tuesday adjourned the Assembly for two days, saying that the Bills, slated to be placed in the Assembly, were yet to get Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar’s approval.
“The House will be adjourned for two days (till December 5). The Bills, which were scheduled to be placed, won’t be tabled as they are yet to receive the nod of the Governor. The House will again start the session from December 6 at 11 am,” the Speaker said, adding, “We had sent those Bills for printing, but can’t place them in the Assembly as they are yet to get the (Governor’s) nod.”
Within hours, the Governor reacted sharply to it, saying that the delay was not from his end, but from the department concerned, and termed the situation projected by the Speaker as “factually untenable”.
A statement issued by Raj Bhavan said, “It has been gathered from media projections that the West Bengal State Legislative Assembly has come to be adjourned for two days as the Bills, which were scheduled to be placed, could not receive the ‘nod of the Governor’ according to Speaker Biman Banerjee. The situation projected is factually untenable. There has been no delay in handling the legislative work in the Raj Bhavan. Highest priority is accorded. However, all issues are thoroughly gone into after due briefing from the Department. There is no delay whatsoever at the end of the Hon’ble Governor in dealing with Legislative work, and if issues thereon are pending, it is on account of lack of input or response from the concerned in the respective Departments.”
As per the established norms, after the Cabinet approves the draft Bill, it is vetted by the state Law Department, and once approved it is sent to Governor for his nod. Once the Governor is satisfied that the Bill does not infringe the Union list or any Central laws, the assent is given to for the Bill to be tabled in the Assembly.
Government sources said among the Bills for which the Governor has not given his nod yet are West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019 that makes lynching punishable by death sentence and West Bengal State Commission for SC and ST Bill.
Sources in the state secretariat said that the second Bill was sent to Raj Bhavan at least a week ago.
Regarding the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019, the Raj Bhavan stated, “A joint representation in this regard was made by the Congress Legislative Party and Left Front Legislative Party through Leader of Opposition Abdul Mannan and Sujan Chakraborty. In the process thereof, the matter came to be scrutinised in accordance of Constitutional provisions and November 29, West Bengal Legislative Assembly Secretariat, vide No. 1461-LA/LEG dated 29.11.2019, indicated to the office of the Governor that the preparation of the final proceedings of the House dated August 30, 2019 in connection with the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching Bill) 2019 is under process. It was further indicated that the complete official report of the debates on the aforesaid Bill will be forwarded as soon as it is finalised. The proceedings of the Assembly are critical for addressing the issue raised in the joint memorandum. The entire delay is fully attributable to the Assembly not making the proceedings available.”
On SC, ST Commission Bill, the Governor said there has been no delay. “The West Bengal State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Bill, 2019 was received by Raj Bhavan on 29.11.2019, and on 3.12.2019 the Governor had indicated that concerned senior person may brief along with the SC & ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. A follow-up communication was sent on the same day to the Secretary to the West Bengal Backward Classes Welfare Department, vide No. 4946-S dated 3.12.19. It deserves to be noted that the file from the state government in this regard came to Raj Bhavan only on 29.11.2019. There has been no delay as after 29.11.2019, November 30 and December 1 were Saturday and Sunday.”
His statement referred to four more Bills: West Bengal lifts, Escalators and travelators Bill, 2019; West Bengal Municipal (Amendment) Bill, 2019; West Bengal Apartment Ownership (Amendment) Bill, 2019; The Hindi University, West Bengal Bill, 2019.
However, the Opposition questioned the TMC government, saying that if it knew that the Governor had not given his nod to these Bills, then why were they scheduled to be placed in the Assembly.
Leader of Opposition and Congress leader Abdul Mannan, said, “Historically, it (Governor not giving nod to any Bill) had happened in the past, but the session had never been adjourned due to this. I think the government took it to its ego.”
CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty alleged that the government wanted to avoid the Question Hour. “Had this session been held, the government would have been in big trouble,” he said.
On the other hand, the government has been alleging that the Governor is playing outside the constitutional protocol. “Not giving nod to the Bills is also part of this strategy,” said a senior TMC minister.
Since assuming charge in July-end, Governor Dhankhar has been at loggerheads with the Trinamool Congress government on a number of issues.
Last week, he had hit out at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for “humiliating” him “on every occasion” and not briefing him regularly. “Have you seen in any part of the country that the current Governor is called to address the state Assembly at number five. Not only this, in his presence, should the programme be chaired by former Governor (MK Narayanan), former Lok Sabha speaker (Meira Kumar) and former chief election commissioner (SY Qureshi),” he had asked, referring to the Constitution Day programme at the Assembly.
Dhankhar had also slammed Speaker Banerjee for “violating protocol”.