Parliament adjourned sine die with Opposition crying foul

New Delhi, March 22 | Updated: Mar 23 2006, 05:30am hrs
In an unusual development, both the Houses of Parliament were abruptly adjourned sine die on Wednesday, with the Opposition alleging that the move was made to pave way for Parliament to be prorogued, so that the UPA government could bring in an Ordinance on the office of profit issue mainly to save Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

The adjournment brought immediate resentment in the Opposition camp with the Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha LK Advani describing the development as the singularly unfortunate event in the history of Indian Parliament.

Calling it as a brazen assault on the established principles and practices of the parliamentary system, an NDA delegation led by former prime minister AB Vajpayee submitted a memorandum to President APJ Abdul Kalam, urging him to give the nation a firm assurance on the purported move by the UPA government.

Union parliamentary affairs minister Priyaranjan Das Munsi, however, dismissed the charges saying that Ms Gandhi did not hold any office of profit by being the chairperson of the National Advisory Council, as it was purely advisory in nature. Even her heading the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation did not fall under this category, he added.

The Union government suggested adjourning the Houses sine die as all the financial business was completed and the future government business was not yet finalised, he told reporters here. He also cited instances in 1994 and 2003 when the Houses were adjourned sine die, besides hinting that Ordinances might be promulgated on the offices of profit issue and the criminal judicial system.

Political circles said with Samajwadi Partys (SP) Jaya Bachchan losing her Rajya Sabha membership over holding an office of profit, the Congress did not want to take any chances and wanted to promulgate an Ordinance that would give a list of posts that would not fall under the category of offices of profit in the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959.

According to Art 123 of the Constitution, an Ordinance can be promulgated only during the recess of Parliament. As there are two parts of the Budget session, technically if the House is not prorogued after the first session, then Parliament is considered to be in session, opine constitutional experts.

Earlier, the Opposition parties and the SP created an uproar in both the Houses over the issue, leading to many adjournments. Speaker Somnath Chatterjee chose to stay away from the proceedings in view of complaints that he was among those holding the office of profit.