M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet clears ‘profit’ Bill unchanged
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 22
Disregarding President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s objections to some of its provisions, the UPA government today decided against making any changes in the controversial Office of Profit Bill.

The decision to seek readoption of the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill in both Houses of Parliament was taken by the Union Cabinet which met here this morning specifically to finalise the government’s stand on the Bill, which was returned by the President without his assent on May 30. The decision was unanimous though Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar did raise objections to some of its provisions. He was, however, snubbed by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherhee.

The government’s decision was promptly relayed to the President by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is learnt to have explained the government’s compulsions in retaining the original Bill as the UPA government does not want to give the impression of a confrontation with Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The Bill, which seeks exemption of 56 posts, was moved by the government after a number of petitions were submitted to the President seeking disqualification of several MPs. including Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi, for holding an office of profit.

In addition to convincing the President, the UPA has also to ensure the passage of the Bill for which it will be consulting leaders of all political parties. Defence Minister and Lok Sabha leader Pranab Mukherjee and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi are likely to meet Leader of Opposition L.K.Advani tomorrow in this connection although the BJP has already indicated its opposition to the Bill in its present form.

Briefing presspersons after the Cabinet meeting, Mr.Dasmunshi said the motion on the Bill was most likely to be moved in the Rajya Sabha on July 25 and the following day in the Lok Sabha.

Mr. Dasmunshi refused to say anything when asked whether the Cabinet decision amounted to disregarding the sentiments of the highest office in the country, saying he would not like to enter into an argument as the matter would be decided in Parliament which enjoys Constitutional powers to exercise its wisdom on such occasions.

Stating that there will be a full-fledged debate on this issue in both Houses in the monsoon session of Parliament which is opening on Monday, Mr. Dasmunshi strived hard to dispel the widespread perception that the UPA government was taking on the President. The government, he emphasised, had the highest regard for the institution of President and his message would be considered by Parliament “with full dignity and honour.” It is a possibility that the concerns expressed by the President could be referred for indepth study to a Parliamentary panel later.

UPA sources admitted that though the government had no desire to reject the President’s objections, it had little option but to readopt the original Bill. If it had made any changes in the Bill, it would be considered a new legislation and could again be returned by the President. According to Constitutional provisions, the President cannot return the same Bill twice.

While asking Parliament to reconsider the Bill, Mr. Kalam had wanted a comprehensive and generic criteria for the exemptions which are applicable across all states. UPA sources said it was unable to do so as this would require a Constitutional amendment which was not possible in the present set-up. Also, the Centre could not interfere in the jurisdiction of state governments. He had also questioned the propriety of applying the law with retrospective effect. Here again, it was stated, the Centre had no choice as it would otherwise result in the disqualification of a large number of MPs and the fall of several state governments.





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