M A I N   N E W S

Office-of-profit Bill today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 14
In a significant development, the Congress-led UPA government is planning to introduce an amendment Bill in Parliament tomorrow, which would exempt National Advisory Council (NAC) chairmanship and 46 other posts from the purview of the office-of-profit.

The BJP-led NDA is expected to oppose the move, even though the Bill has included several posts held by the Opposition members and the supporting Left parties.

The Congress had earlier claimed that the NAC was only an advisory body and not an office of profit. However, party president Sonia Gandhi, who was the NAC head with Cabinet rank, had resigned from the Lok Sabha when President Abdul Kalam forwarded the complaint against her to the Election Commission.

The poll panel had earlier disqualified Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan from the Rajya Sabha for holding an office of profit, and the decision was vindicated by the Supreme Court.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Vijay Kumar Malhotra told The Tribune that they are opposed to the Bill in principle but the final decision would be taken at the NDA meet tomorrow.

He said the government could have defined an "office of profit" rather than naming so many posts, which would have to be added on each time.

Mr Malhotra said the Bill dilutes the spirit of Article 102, 103 of the Constitution pertaining to the office-of-profit.

Further, the provisions of the Bill attempt to protect the members from retrospective effect, which we do not favour, he added.

The Bill provides a specific clause for excluding the office of the chairperson of NAC constituted by the Cabinet Secretariat on May 31, 2004.

Justifying the need for this Bill, the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill said, “If this state of affairs is allowed to continue then there is bound to be large-scale litigation and the likely vacation of seats in both Houses of Parliament, which will necessitate the holding of bye-elections to fill up resultant vacancies. This will be a wasteful expenditure and will enforce unnecessary financial burden on the nation.”

Apart from the NAC chairmanship, an issue over which Congress president Sonia Gandhi resigned and got re-elected from Rae Bareli, and Sriniketan-Santiniketan Development Authority, the offices sought to be excluded include UP Development Council headed by Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and the now-defunct All India Council of Sports, earlier headed BJP leader V.K. Malhotra with retrospective effect.

The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill 2006 for further amending the 1959 Act, which is likely to be introduced in the Lok Sabha tomorrow for passage during the current session which concludes on May 23, was today circulated among MPs by Law Minister H.R. Bharadwaj.

About 40 MPs, many of them from the Left parties extending crucial support to the UPA government, and 200 MLAs are facing disqualification petitions.


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