M A I N   N E W S

President clears ‘Profit’ Bill
UPA government heaves a sigh of relief
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 18
Much to the relief of the Congress-led UPA government, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today gave his assent to the controversial office of profit Bill, which had been passed by Parliament for the second time without changes.

The danger of disqualification, weighing down heavily on the heads of 40 MPs, was now over.

The anxiously awaited assent came a day after the government constituted a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to define what constituted an office of profit.

The legislation exempted 56 posts from the ambit of the office of profit, including the UPA’s National Advisory Council, the Uttar Pradesh Development Council, the Sriniketan Santiniketan Development Authority, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams Board, the Krishak Bharti Cooperative Limited, the Auroville Foundation, the Delhi Rural Development Board, the Dr Ambedkar Foundation, the All-India Council of Sports and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts.

The Opposition as well as some Left MPs protested yesterday against the constitution of the JPC on the ground that it amounted to impropriety.

The BJP-led Opposition walked out of the Lok Sabha to register its protest.

During his meeting with Dr Kalam at the Independence Day reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was believed to have conveyed his government’s desire for early presidential assent to the Bill.

The Election Commission today asked for the comments of Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy on the information submitted by the West Bengal Government on the office of profit issue.

Mr Roy had sought the disqualification of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and nine other CPM MPs on the office of profit issue.

The commission had given time till August 25 to the Trinamool Congress leader to file his reply.

The West Bengal Government had earlier refused to part with the information, but shared the specific details sought by the quasi-judicial poll panel.

This issue now fell by the wayside, with the President giving his assent to the Bill.

Sources dismissed speculation that Dr Kalam had been considering putting in his papers as he believed that there should be no ad hoc approach in judging offices of profit.

The sources said Dr Kalam was acutely aware of his constitutional obligations and the question of not giving his assent to the Bill after Parliament considered it afresh as suggested by him did not arise.

It was a matter of time before the President gave his assent as he was not known to delay matters, the sources said.

The government might have to make Amendments for the legislation to stand the scrutiny of the court, they added.




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