Wednesday, March 27, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Joint session okays POTO
425 vote in favour, 296 against
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
The Vajpayee government had its way when the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, 2002 was passed with 425 votes in favour and 296 against after a marathon 10-hour debate at an extraordinary joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament tonight.

In a division pressed by the Opposition, Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed declared the motion for consideration of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, 2002 as passed, bringing cheer to Treasury Bench members.

The Opposition members were seen leaving the House in anger soon after the Deputy Speaker announced the outcome of the much-awaited voting.

The joint sitting — third in the Parliamentary history of independent India, earlier held in 1961 and 1978 — was necessitated after the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha but rejected by the Rajya Sabha where the Opposition is in a majority.

The unexpected large margin of victory for the Vajpayee government is a clear indication of hitherto opposition parties and fence-sitters like AIADMK, BSP and NCP supporting the government on this issue. The opposition parties, especially the Congress, Samajwadi Party and the Left had bitterly opposed the Bill, dubbing it as “draconian and a black law”.

The joint sitting was not without acrimony which had its bitter moments at the very end when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee intervened sharply to refute the charges levelled against him by Congress President and Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi.

Taking strong exception to Mrs Gandhi questioning the moral integrity of the government and expressing serious doubts about Mr Vajpayee succumbing to internal pressure and being able to hold the prestige of the high office he holds, the Prime Minister hit back wondering what the Congress chief was aiming at.

Earlier, introducing the Bill, Union Home Minister L.K. Advani emphasised that the nation’s security had to be accorded high priority. The Opposition, with the Congress in the vanguard, blasted the government for bringing the anti-terrorism legislation for partisan politics and to terrorise minorities.

Meanwhile, the absence of Mr Vajpayee for a few minutes from the House during the crucial debate on the controversial Bill created some confusion with the Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed having to decide whether he would allow intervention of Mr Vajpayee or reply to the debate on the Anti-Terrorism Bill by Union Home Minister L.K. Advani.

Even as he was pondering over what to do, former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar reminded him that the debate was to end at 5 p.m. and it was already 7.40 p.m. So, his suggestion was to ask the Home Minister to reply to the debate and put the bill on vote.

When the Prime Minister did not reach the House, even after five minutes, he decided to ask the Home Minister to begin his reply, much to the embarrassment of the Treasury Bench.

A reluctant Home Minister did position himself before the mikes but suggested that as and when Mr Vajpayee comes his intervention be allowed, which was turned down by the Deputy Speaker.

The embarrassment of Treasury Bench ended, and the confusion as well, as Mr Vajpayee made a dramatic entry flanked by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan and Minister of State in PMO Vijay Goel. The Deputy Speaker then allowed Mr Vajpayee to make his intervention and deferred Mr Advani’s reply.Back


Opposition slams govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
The Opposition today made a scathing attack on the government in Parliament on the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) charging the BJP-led coalition with bringing the “black” measure for its partisan politics “to terrorise minorities and the Opposition”.

Taking the lead after Home Minister L.K. Advani’s introduction of POTO in the specially convened joint session of Parliament, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi charged the government with manipulating the processes of Parliament for promoting a divisive ideological agenda and said this was to subvert the very spirit of Constitution.

The time has come for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to decide if his primary duty was to protect the people’s welfare or succumb to internal pressures of his party and its sister organisations, Mrs Gandhi said.

“Will he be submissive and weak in his leadership or will he uphold the prestige of the high office he holds. His moment of reckoning has come,” Mrs Gandhi said.

CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee said the government was keen on getting POTO passed only to please the USA and for using it against “political detractors and minorities,” and not against terrorists.

The Centre also knew very well that the Act would not be used in most of the states as the BJP and its NDA allies were in power only in seven states. Law and order was a state subject, he pointed out.

Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav declared that his party would start a countrywide movement against POTO if it was passed here.Back

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