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Prem Singh takes `charge' as Speaker

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, JUNE 4. The Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) president, Chaudhary Prem Singh, who was appointed pro-tem Speaker today, assumed "charge' as the Speaker of the Delhi Assembly. Mr. Prem Singh has still not been officially sworn in as the pro-tem Speaker.

Mr. Prem Singh, who is the senior-most member of the House, is to act as the pro-tem Speaker when the Assembly session is summoned in July. The former Speaker, Ajay Maken, had resigned following his election to the Lok Sabha from the New Delhi constituency.

The Assembly Secretariat appeared to have been taken by surprise when Mr. Prem Singh along with his supporters reached the premises this afternoon claiming that he had been nominated as the interim Speaker by the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor, Vijai Kapoor.

However, the authorities concerned informed Mr. Prem Singh that no such order had reached them and the post of the interim Speaker did not exit. He was also informed that the pro-tem Speaker was only meant to administer oath to the new members or facilitate the election of a new Speaker and thereby Mr. Prem Singh should not assume charge as Speaker of the Delhi Assembly.

All pleas fell on deaf ears as Mr. Singh and his supporters refused to budge claiming that all the facilities extended to the Speaker should be given to him also. It is learnt that despite resistance from the officials, Mr. Prem Singh took charge of the official vehicle and the chamber of the Speaker.

Finding themselves helpless, senior officials of the Assembly Secretariat are understood to have disappeared from the offices in order to avoid any kind of embarrassment or confrontation with him. It is learnt that Mr. Prem Singh did not pay any heed to the pleas of the senior officials and drove away in the Maruti Baleno, the official car of the Delhi Assembly Speaker.

Experts feel that the Delhi Assembly could well be heading for a constitutional crisis as Mr. Singh, who is also the DPCC president, could not hold charge as an interim speaker in view of his occupying a political post. It is learnt that Delhi Congress leaders have brought the issue to the notice of the senior party leaders as well as the Congress high command.

Interestingly, an official release issued late in the evening said Mr. Prem Singh assumed charge as pro tem Speaker. "His appointment was approved by the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor on suggestion of the Chief Minister imparting honour to his longest service in Delhi Assembly as the senior most member," it said.

Referring to the order of the Lieutenant-Governor of May 31, the official statement said Mr. Prem Singh would discharge his duties as Speaker of Delhi Assembly till further orders. He was Speaker of the Delhi Assembly from December 14, 1998, to June 17, 2003, after which he was appointed as president of the Delhi Pradesh congress Committee. "As Speaker he proved his mettle while conducting the proceedings of the House," it said. "The admirers and followers of Mr. Prem Singh today came to Old Secretariat and presented him flowers and bouquets," the statement said.

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