M A I N   N E W S

Big Bang
House expels Amarinder
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 10
Stripping former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of the membership for the remaining term of the 13th Punjab Vidhan Sabha was one of the unprecedented decisions taken by the Punjab Assembly as the third and last sitting of the monsoon session came to a dramatic end here this afternoon.

The other major decisions were referring the House Committee report on the Amritsar Improvement Trust land exemption case to the Vigilance Bureau for launching criminal proceedings and unanimous adoption of the Punjab Official Language (Amendment) Bill .

It is for the first time in the history of 13 Vidhan Sabhas of the state since Independence that any former Chief Minister has been expelled on the basis of a House Committee report that substantiated charges of corruption and misuse of official position against four senior functionaries of the immediate past regime.

It may be perhaps the first case of its type in Punjab in which action has been taken by the House against a sitting member on charges of corruption and misusing official position.

The ruling SAD-BJP alliance went a step further in moving a privilege motion against expelled Amarinder and Makhan Singh for their utterances against the chairman of the House Committee and the constitution of the committee in a section of the media. The resolution moved by Virsa Singh Valtoha, a member of the House Committee, also had a majority voice vote endorsement.

Against apprehensions of a confrontation, it was a day of mixed and dramatic events that witnessed moments of bonhomie, unanimity, cuddling, political skirmishes, walkouts and slogan shouting. And still all business, including expulsion of Amarinder, was gone through with some of important visitors, including Preneet Kaur, MP, working president of the Punjab Congress Mohinder Singh Kaypee, former Cabinet ministers Sardool Singh, Jasjit Singh, Gurdev Singh Badal and Hari Singh Zira in the galleries. Even the officers’ gallery was full for a change.

Dressed in his usual white shirt and pyjama with a light green turban, Capt Amarinder Singh arrived in the House shortly before the question hour had ended. Throughout the three-day session, he did not get a chance to speak or join discussions.

After the House had completed its scheduled legislative business, the speaker asked Harish Rai Dhanda to move his resolution. Leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and her colleague Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, however, wanted that discussion on havoc caused by floods in Punjab should be taken up first. But the speaker insisted on completing the listed agenda first. The moment Harish Rai Dhanda rose in his seat, Congressmen started shouting slogans against the Punjab government and moved to the well of the House. They even tried to break the security cordon of the speaker’s podium.

Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Amarinder Singh, Brahm Mohindra and Kuldip Singh Bhattal, however, remained seated. Though Congress legislators kept on raising slogans, both Harish Rai Dhanda and Tikshan Sood went ahead with their resolutions. At one stage, some slogans were also raised against Congress leaders from the treasury benches.

Intriguingly, when the speaker put the resolution moved by parliamentary affairs minister Tikshan Sood for taking action against Amarinder to vote, Congress legislators were still in the House and they silently started walking out as the resolution was adopted by voice vote of the treasury benches. The Congress members neither announced boycott of the vote nor decision to stage a walkout to bring to an abrupt end to the proceedings of the last sitting.

In fact, Congress legislators wanted to nail the SAD-BJP government for its failure to provide adequate relief to flood victims. They were keen on discussion on the havoc wreaked by floods in the state last month.

The speaker had also agreed and announced that it would be taken up after the last item on the agenda was taken. A list of speakers from the Congress was also submitted to him.

The turn of events, however, scuttled the proposal. And once the decisions to expel Amarinder and adopt privilege resolution moved by Virsa Singh Valtoha were taken, the House adjourned sine die.

Earlier, in the amended agenda, motion regarding discussion on report of the House Committee by its chairman Harish Rai Dhanda was included as the last item. Once Dhanda had moved the resolution, parliamentary affairs minister rose to propose another resolution about action to be taken against those indicted by the report.

Vidhan Sabha rules do not permit any discussion on a House Committee report, as sufficient opportunity is believed to have been given to all parties during the sittings of the committee. As such only item of interest was action taken on the report.

The resolution of Tikshan said since the Vidhan Sabha did not have the provision for questioning and interrogation of guilty people to ascertain where they have kept or distributed the ill-gotten money, it recommended custodial interrogation of Amarinder, Jagjit Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma, while the fourth person indicted by the committee, Raghunath Sahai Puri, died some time ago.

The House also wanted the director, Vigilance Bureau, to register an FIR and give a preliminary report to the speaker within two months.



Amarinder to move HC today
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 10
Describing his expulsion as the “darkest day in the history of democracy in Punjab,” former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said the action was nothing but an act of “political vendetta”.

“Ever since the SAD-BJP alliance formed government, repeated attempts have been made to send me to jail. They have had no success. In 13 cases the High Court and the Supreme Court has established political vendetta. They have now resorted to murder of democracy and used the Vidhan Sabha to expel me”.

Amarinder today appeared more composed and confident than he was on September 5 when the Special Committee tabled its report in the House. He said he would approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court tomorrow against the “unconstitutional and illegal order”.

“The government has played with the sentiments of the people of Patiala who sent me to this august House by expelling me,” the former CM said.

Amarinder said this was for the first time in history that the Vidhan Sabha had pronounced an order “without hearing the accused or giving them an opportunity to defend themselves”.

“The government has violated the Constitution and principles of jurisprudence”. The Badal clan, he said, had started a dangerous trend in politics using majority in the House to settle old scores.

Some Congress legislators were of the view that the party leadership had failed to provide a clear line of action at the meeting of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) held earlier in the day to discuss the issue.



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