Opposition stand on OoP Bill makes Centre anxious

New Delhi, July 26 | Updated: Jul 27 2006, 05:30am hrs
The UPA government is becoming anxious over a possible delay in the passing of the office of profit Bill, reintroduced in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, with the Upper House being repeatedly adjourned on Wednesday over Oppositions efforts to raise several other issues.

Though the motion on the Prevention (Disqualification of Parliament) Amendment Bill, 2006 is scheduled to be taken up on Thursday, the Centre feels that the Opposition may try to make things difficult by delaying the passage of the Bill.

For instance, 25 more members of the Rajya Sabha will speak on the issue of Pakistan reportedly building a nuclear reactor.

Besides, as the parliamentary agenda for Friday is dominated by Private Members Bill, the OoP Bill could see further delay, unless changes are agreed upon in the House proceedings.

If the Rajya Sabha does not dispose of the OoP Bill on Thursday, then the process will be delayed as it will not be possible to table the Bill in the Lok Sabha on July 31, said parliamentary affairs minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi on Wednesday.

Incidentally, July 31 is the deadline given by the Election Commission to the West Bengal government to furnish relevant information on the MPs, including Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, to the commission.

Political circles say that irrespective of the status of the enactment of the Bill that has been reintroduced without the removal of the retrospect exemption clause, any delay in the enactment of the amendment may result in a possible scenario where the EC gives its opinion under Article 103 of the Constitution on the OoP cases referred to it by the President.

The question of retrospect exemption may also rise if the EC recommends the disqualification of some MPs before the amendment to the 1959 Act is enacted.

Sources said the Law Ministry was giving final touches to a draft on the formation of a committee on the issue as suggested by the Left parties, that would address all OoP issues including the concerns expressed by President APJ Kalam while returning the Bill.

Besides, the BJP is expected to insist not only on a division of voting but also on not allowing the MPs named in the OoP cases to vote.

We will insist on the application of Rule 371, where the vote of a member can be challenged on the ground of personal, or direct interest in the matter to be decided, said BJP Lok Sabha deputy leader VK Malhotra. However, it is the discretion of the Speaker to decide on whether a member can vote or not.