Sunday, August 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet returns poll Ordinance to Kalam
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 24
The Union Cabinet after reconsidering the proposed Ordinance to amend the Representation of the People Act expectedly returned it to President A P J Abdul Kalam for his assent.

The Cabinet which met here late this afternoon and considered the clarifications sought by Dr Kalam sent it back to Rashtrapati Bhavan with the specious request that the Ordinance in its present form be promulgated.

The Cabinet with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in the Chair is believed to have also responded to the clarifications sought by the President in respect of certain provisions of the proposed Ordinance.

The Cabinet maintained that the proposed Ordinance was a clone of the People’s Representation Bill, 2002, which could not be introduced in Parliament as both Houses of Parliament adjourned sine die three days before the scheduled conclusion of the monsoon session.

In keeping with the provisions of the Constitution, Dr Kalam has no option but to give his assent to the proposed Ordinance. This is particularly so as the Cabinet at the President’s behest had reconsidered the proposed Ordinance and returned it to him for assent in the original form.

If in the first instance the President has any reservations about any measure, he can only ask the Cabinet to reconsider it. The Cabinet after such reconsideration returns the measure without any changes, then the Head of State is weighed in by that recommendation.

To be doubly sure about the legalese, the Cabinet had invited Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee and Additional Solicitor-General Kirit Rawal to give their opinion on the finer points of law.

Dr Kalam, like his predecessors, is bound by the advice of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. There is, therefore, hardly any room for Rashtrapati Bhavan to take any other action even if it continues to have reservations about the proposed Ordinance.

The Vajpayee government firmly believes that it would not like to alter the provisions in the proposed Ordinance as it was evolved with consensus. Any tinkering with the measure at this juncture would mean the entire process of holding discussions with the Opposition would have to be gone through again.

More importantly, there was unanimity among all sections in the political spectrum to the provisions in the draft Ordinance aimed at dealing with criminalisation of politics.

Dr Kalam, a technologist and the country’s missile man, wondered why no educational qualifications had been prescribed for those contesting elections. He found the declaration of assets by those winning elections perplexing as it left out the candidate’s immediate relatives.

It was only during President Zail Singh’s tenure in Rashtrapati Bhavan that assent was not given to a legislative measure — the Postal Bill. The late Zail Singh found the measure draconian, flagrantly violating the fundamental rights of the people at large. This was at a time when the relations between President Zail Singh and the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was not on an even keel.

Mr Zail Singh’s successor R. Venkataraman also withheld giving his assent to the Postal Bill. As a result, the highly controversial Postal Bill was given a quiet burial.


Petroleum Ordinance decision deferred
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 24
The Union Cabinet is understood to have deferred a decision on the proposed Petroleum Dealer (Termination of Agreement) Ordinance, 2000. A decision on the Ordinance, which will empower the government to cancel over 3,500 petrol, LPG and kerosene dealerships in the country, was expected in today’s Cabinet meeting.

An executive order to this effect was issued on August 5.

The Ordinance incorporates appropriate compensation to the owners of those agencies who had invested substantially to set up the infrastructure for retail marketing.


Minor Cabinet reshuffle tomorrow

New Delhi, August 24
A minor Cabinet reshuffle is slated for Monday with the suspense over resignation of Power Minister Suresh Prabhu ending today and his Shiv Sena colleague Anant Geete expected to take his place.

The reshuffle is likely to be purely a Shiv Sena affair with senior party MP Anandrao Adsul being inducted into Geete’s portfolio of Minister of State for Finance.

Sources said the reshuffle is likely to be limited to “fill in the blanks” following Mr Prabhu’s resignation.

Mr Prabhu’s resignation, submitted to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee earlier this week was accepted by the President tonight. PTI

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