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EC unlikely to decide on NAC office-of-profit issue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 25
The Election Commission (EC) is unlikely to decide on the issue whether the National Advisory Council (NAC) was an office of profit or not, as its chairperson Sonia Gandhi has resigned from the Lok Sabha.

Chief Election Commissioner B.B. Tandon said as a general principle, courts look into live issues between parties and do not undertake to decide an issue which is purely academic or has become infructuous on account of any supervening event, like the resignation of a member from the House concerned.

He said the Supreme Court has held in a number of cases that any decision in such cases would have no impact on the position of the parties and it would be a waste of public time by engaging in a fruitless exercise.

However, Mr Tandon clarified that whenever any question of alleged disqualification of any MP was raised by the President under the provisions of the Constitution, the commission was obliged under Article 103 (2) to tender its opinion to the President,” he said.

Meanwhile, the poll panel has received a petition from the Rashtrapati Bhavan against BJP Rajya Sabha MP Balbir Punj by a Delhi Congressman, on the ground that he held an office of profit by being the vice chairman of the National Commission for Youth between March, 2002 and July, 2004.

It was alleged that the journalist-turned-MP was granted the status of a minister of state and enjoyed all perks and privileges. The term of Mr Punj comes to an end on April 2.

The commission has also received petitions against nine MLAs belonging to the ruling dispensation in the Jharkhand Assembly. They are— Neel Kanth Singh Munda, Ashok Kumar, Loknath Mahto and Upendra Nath Das (all Parliamentary Secretaries), Radha Krishna Kishore (Chairman, State Sports Development Authority), Putkar Hembrom, Joba Manjhi, Tala Marandi and Chandreshwar Oraon (all in the State Tribal Council enjoying the status of State Minister).

The petitions against them have been referred by the state Governor Syed Sibtey Razi.

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Anil Ambani resigns from Rajya Sabha
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 25
In the midst of the office of profit controversy, noted industrialist Anil Ambani today resigned as member of Rajya Sabha in a move to pre-empt complaints against him for holding such offices.

Tendering his resignation, Mr Ambani claimed that he wanted to “uphold the highest standards of transparency, propriety and ethics.”

He was elected to the Upper House as an Independent from Uttar Pradesh with the overwhelming support of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in June, 2004. When asked if Mr Ambani would contest again for Rajya Sabha, sources in his group indicated it was unlikely.

His election to the House of Elders, however, created fissures in the industrial empire of Reliance and the two brothers parted ways in a mutually agreed settlement of demerger of the country’s well-known brand.

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Amendment saves MLAs the blushes
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 25
A little-known amendment enacted by Maharashtra’s legislators way back in 1981 has saved its present MLAs embarassment in the ongoing ‘office of profit’ controversy.

According to sources in the state’s legal department, an amendment to change the wording in the Maharashtra Members of State Legislature (Removal and Disqualification) Act, 1956, enacted in 1981 would put several government departments and corporations out of the ambit of ‘office of profit’.

Elected representatives who head corporations and government departments in Maharashtra are not paid any remuneration at all. Instead all they receive are ‘reimbursements’ of expenses.

In all, there are 51 public sector undertakings in Maharashtra, most of which are headed by political appointees including elected representatives. Though several posts are still laying vacant, they haven’t been filled because of the current controversy.

Reports said Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has sought legal opinion before going ahead with the filling up of the vacancies.

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