M A I N   N E W S

President returns Office of Profit Bill
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 30
In a major embarrassment to the UPA government, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today returned the Prevention of Disqualification Amendment Bill on the Office of Profit to Parliament for reconsideration. It had been passed by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the just-concluded Budget Session.

In a separate communication to Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Rajya Sabha Chairperson Bhairon Singh Shekhawat this afternoon, Dr Kalam opined that there should be a comprehensive criterion for exemption of posts to protect MPs and MLAs against disqualification.

The President wanted that the criterion should be “just, fair and reasonable” and could be applied across all states and union territories in a clear and transparent manner, Rashtrapati Bhavan sources told The Tribune.

Dr Kalam, who received the Bill on May 25 for assent, is also understood to have expressed his reservation about the propriety of applying the law with restrospective effect. “The President wanted this also to be considered afresh,” the sources said.

In the Bill that was passed, 56 posts, including that of National Advisory Council chairpersonship, a post earlier held by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, were exempted from the definition of Office of Profit.

The Bill seeks to amend the 1959 Act, provides for a specific clause for excluding the office of the chairperson of NAC constituted by the Cabinet Secretariat on May 31, 2004.

According to Constitutional provisions, if the Parliament after reconsideration sends the Bill in the same form to the President, then the latter will have to give assent to it.

Meanwhile, the BJP today reacted sharply saying that “our stand has been vindicated and the return of the Bill by the President is a big dent on the morality of the Congress-led UPA government.”

Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said, “We have strong reservation over the manner in which the UPA government hurried their way in getting the Bill passed in Parliament... Now it is a big embarrassment for the Congress-led government."

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar went a step further saying that “the BJP will approach the EC and urge it to reconsider the various petitions filed by it with regard to Office of Profit and take a decision in a weeks time.”

Maintaining that the return of the Bill was not a moral defeat" for the government, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Sanghvi said, “The President had only raised certain apprehensions... We will look into it and satisfy him on the apprehensions.”


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