The Modi government on Monday introduced the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, that seeks to do away with the automatic nomination of the President of the Indian National Congress (INC) to the Jallianwala Bagh Trust and gives more power to the Central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee.
The bill was moved in the Lok Sabha by Culture Minister, Prahlad Singh Patel.
This bill was vehemently opposed by the Congress in the lower house calling it an “arbitrary act”. Opposing the bill, Shashi Tharoor of the Congress said it was a “denial of the heritage of the country.” furthering that “the bill should be stopped. It is a national memorial, do not betray our history and heritage.”
Responding to the opposition, Patel said, “I will respond to every issue raised by members during the debate on the Bill,” pointing out that the Congress President has been a trustee since last 45-50 years but had done nothing for the memorial in those years.
The Bill amends the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951.
The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951 provides for the erection a National Memorial in memory of the victims of the 13 April 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The Act provides for a Trust to maintain the National Memorial.
The President of the Indian National Congress is one of the trustees, making it favourable to one party. Also, in the absence of a Leader of Opposition, there would be no trustee from the Lok Sabha.
In December 2018, the Centre approved an amendment to the Act to resolve these issues. Consequently, in February the Lok Sabha passed The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2018 which proposes to remove the President of the Indian National Congress as a trustee. It further clarifies that in the absence of a Leader of Opposition the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha would be the trustee.
The bill has also an added clause that allows the central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of his term without assigning any reason.
A similar one was brought by Modi government 1.0, but then too, though the bill was passed in the 16th Lok Sabha it could not be passed in Rajya Sabha.
The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was one of the 40 bills proposed by the Modi government in its first parliamentary session of the 17th Lok Sabha.