The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Phew! Sonia can count her profits
- Bill exempting 56 posts passed, NAC and UP film council on list

New Delhi, May 16: After a vexing spat that stretched for weeks, the Lok Sabha today passed a bill to exempt several dozen posts from being considered offices of profit even as the Opposition walked out and some ruling party allies voiced apprehensions.

The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2006, which was passed by voice vote, exempts at least 56 posts, which means MPs holding such posts do not face disqualification from Parliament under Article 102 of the Constitution.

Among the 56 is the chairperson of the National Advisory Council, a post Sonia Gandhi had resigned together with the membership of Parliament.

Also on the list is the Uttar Pradesh Film Development Council, which actress Jaya Bachchan headed leading to her disqualification as a Rajya Sabha member.

Keen to accommodate MPs of all political parties, law mi-nister H.R. Bhardwaj moved an amendment, adding 10 mo-re posts to the bill’s first draft. The bill also gives blanket exemption to key office-bearers of trusts and registered societies.

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance staged a walkout when Bhardwaj introduced the bill. Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani said the government was trying to “bulldoze” the legislation through Parliament.

The NDA members were back in the House after the lunch break to hear even the Left and some other allies of the ruling coalition voice fears over the “hurried” manner in which the bill was being introduced.

Although they supported the bill at the end of the debate, the allies suggested that a committee should have debated the draft and looked at the issue in more detail.

Janata Dal (United) leader Prabhunath Singh suggested that the entire article be scrapped through a constitutional amendment, or all offices exempted in one stroke as long as those who held them did not draw a salary. But Bhardwaj argued that the article mandated a case-by-case review.

He said there was nothing unusual in adding more offices to the exemption list through an amendment, and this has been done several times without much fuss. The MPs who held such offices were doing a service to society, he said. As an example, he mentioned the now exempted Sriniketan Santiniketan Development Authority that Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee headed.

As he had made known earlier, Chatterjee did not preside over the debate. Sonia Gandhi, who is back as a member of the House, was not present either.

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