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House pardons Bhattal after Privileges panel censure
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 11
Punjab Vidhan Sabha today saw lot of tense moments after the Privileges Committee of the House censured leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and recommended her expulsion for seven days after she was found guilty of insulting the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon and lowering the prestige of the Chair during the Winter Session. After an intense debate and opposing the verdict of the committee by Congress legislators, the House unanimously exonerated Bhattal on the recommendation of the Speaker.

Soon after Zero Hour, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Tikshan Sood moved a resolution to table the report of the Privileges Committee and sought exemplary punishment for Bhattal, found guilt of breach of privilege, so that indiscipline during House proceedings could be stopped in future. He read out the recommendations that called for a seven-day expulsion of the leader of the opposition.

As members of the Congress legislators got some time to read the 13-page report and four-page dissent note, most of them started rising in their seats to object to the salient features of the report being read by Virsa Singh Valtoha of the SAD. Jassi Khangura of the Congress launched his attack by saying that the report was nothing more than the outcome of a Kangaroo court, where the same person (Valtoha) was the eye-witness, complainant and the judge. The report has singled out a women Congress member and asked leading questions against all norms of natural justice.

He was joined by Lal Singh of the Congress who called the report “illegal,” saying that as per rules governing the house committees, unless a time frame is announced all reports have to be completed within one month. Beyond a month, approval in the form of an extension is required from the house. But since no extension was sought, the committee is “illegal” and subsequently any recommendations cannot be implemented. To this, the Speaker intervened to say that extension till March 15, 2010 was sought from him which he granted in the absence of the house being in session.

On December 10, the Congress led by Bhattal had launched a tirade against the Speaker after media reports suggested that the government had denied permission to the CBI to question the Speaker in a case pertaining to recruitment of panchayat secretaries during his earlier stint as minister. The Congress leader had asked the Speaker to step down as he had lost moral authority to remain in the Chair after being chargesheeted. The House had then brought in a privilege motion against Bhattal and formed a committee headed by Sarabjit Singh Makkar of the SAD to investigate.

Duing the debate on the report, Local Government Minister Manoranjan Kalia (BJP) intervened and urged that Bhattal’s punishment be reduced to two days. Sunil Jakhar of the Congress interjected to say that Bhattal had been picked on and isolated for punishment while the entire opposition had agitated. Rana K P, also of the Congress, told the Speaker that any punishment to Bhattal would set a “wrong precedent”.

Avtar Singh Brar of the Congress also urged the Speaker to forgive Bhattal and prevent the atmosphere from being vitiated further. While, Bhattal, who was present in the house, showed some signs of nervousness, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal did not intervene at all. At this point, the Speaker intervened and advised the members to pardon Bhattal. The suggestion was accepted by all and treasury benches hailed the move.



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