Monday, February 14, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Sangma, Irani on statute panel

NEW DELHI, Feb 13 (PTI) — The government today announced the composition of a 11-member committee to review the Constitution which will include Law Commission Chairman Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee, former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma and eminent newspaper Editor C.R. Irani.

Headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, the commission will also have former apex court judge R.S. Sarkaria who headed a committee on Centre-state relations, former Attorney-General K. Parasaran, retired bureaucrat and former Ambassador to the USA Abid Hussain, Ms Sumitra Kulkarni, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi and Mr Ponniah.

Former Lok Sabha Secretary-General Subhash C. Kashyap will be the commission’s member-secretary.

Mr Sangma, the only active politician to be included in the commission, met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today and is understood to have given his consent.

The Union Cabinet had on February 1 decided to constitute the commission with a one-year term to review the working of the constitution within the framework of parliamentary democracy.

Justice Venkatachaliah gave his consent to head the commission after he was assured that the “basic features” of the Constitution and the “parliamentary system of democracy” would be treated as inviolable.

The terms of reference for the commission include the provisions to examine the working of the Constitution in the country in its five decades after Independence and make suggestions how it could be applied to the changing needs of an efficient, smooth and effective system of governance. It could recommend changes that were required in the constitution without interfering with its basic structure and features.

The interpretation of the terms of reference would be done by the commission itself. It would hold talks with political parties on the report which would be placed before Parliament, PMO sources said.

The government neither has the two-third majority in the Lok Sabha required to amend the Constitution, nor a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

The ruling National Democratic Alliance’s election manifesto had promised to review the working of the Constitution if voted to power.

The decision to appoint the national commission was taken by the Cabinet but names of the chairperson and members were formally announced today.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, during his address to the nation last month, had announced his intention of setting up a commission to review the working of the Constitution. President K.R. Narayanan had advised against such a move.

The varying perceptions of the two constitutional functionaries at a function to commemorate the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indian Republic had sparked off a public debate with the Congress, the major Opposition party in Parliament, taking exception to the decision of the government.

Meanwhile, former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, who was today appointed member of the Constitution Review Commission (CRC), said he would raise the issue of barring persons of foreign origin from occupying high constitutional posts.

“I’ll take up this matter (debarring persons of foreign origin from occupying high posts). I don’t think it is a political issue. It is a national issue concerning every citizen,” he told Star News.

Mr Sangma, who quit the Congress opposing Mrs Sonia Gandhi on her foreign origin issue, denied suggestions that the BJP was “using” his shoulders to train guns on the Congress chief, saying: “I have never been used as I have definite and clear-cut views on issues.”

Mr Sangma said he had been included on the commission in his “personal” capacity and not as a representative of a political party. He said the Constitution review would not be a mere intellectual exercise and the commission must examine the practical aspects based on the experience of the past 50 years.

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