M A I N   N E W S

Lok Sabha passes profit Bill
56 posts exempted; reprieve for over 40 MPs
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
Amid stiff resistance from the Opposition, Parliament today gave its approval without any change for the controversial Office of Profit Bill. This now exempts 56 posts and gives reprieve to over 40 MPs who could have faced disqualification, a measure returned by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for reconsideration.

At the end of an acrimonious day-long debate, the Bill was passed in Lok Sabha with 230 voting in favour and 71 against, with the government expressing readiness to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into the definition of Office of Profit and other suggestions.

The Deputy Speaker, Mr Charnjit Singh Atwal, declared the Bill by a voice vote, but his decision was challenged by Ms Mamta Banerjee (TMC) demanding a division.

“Shame, shame,” shouted members from the BJP-led Opposition Benches as Leader of Opposition L K Advani issued warning that the government could suffer judicial admonishment and made a forceful appeal for reconsideration.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee, who had been accused of violating office of profit, were not present in the House when the Bill was passed, and nor was Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who is facing a disqualification petition on the issue.

Replying to the debate, Law Minister H R Bhardwaj rejected Opposition contentions that the President had been shown any discourtesy or disrespect by the government by not accepting his suggestions during the reconsideration of the measure.

Dispelling the notion among Opposition members that the House was doing something “immoral and wrong” by passing the Bill, Bhardwaj said the supremacy of Parliament to pass such a Bill had been established by a Supreme Court judgement.

“While we may have political differences, it is important that allegations and motives are not attributed to anyone,” Bhardwaj said.

Mr Advani expressed apprehension that the Bill might be struck down by the Supreme Court and appealed to the government to reconsider the Bill before referring it back to the President.

He said the record of the government in regard to some Bills had been “unenviable” and cited in this context the Andhra Pradesh Reservation Bill, the IMDT Act and the action against the AIIMS Director that, he said, had attracted adverse judgement from the Supreme Court.

“Take more time, let us sit together. We can take cognisance of the President’s views,” Mr Advani said, adding the Bill could have been properly discussed in the two months’ time since the Bill was returned to Parliament, but this was not done.

Kalam, while returning the Bill on May 30 to Parliament, some 15 days after it was approved, had wanted a generic and comprehensive criterion of office of profit, and had questioned its applicability retrospectively.





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