New Delhi, Sept. 7: Law minister Kapil Sibal apologised in the Rajya Sabha today after a bill the upper House had passed for a new system of appointing judges couldn’t be taken up in Parliament’s lower chamber because of a technical error.
“I am sorry the bill could not be passed despite my best efforts,” Sibal said.
The Lok Sabha had yesterday completed its business for the monsoon session without taking up the Constitution (One Hundred and Twentieth Amendment) Bill, 2013, because of the “patent error” — a typographical or, in this case, a technical error involving numbers.
Sibal said the bill, introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday as the 120th amendment — which is correct since 119 amendments had been introduced earlier — should have been passed as the 99th amendment because 98 has been passed so far.
But the title of the bill — that inserted an article aimed at creating a commission that would replace the existing system of appointments in which only judges have a role — was not changed.
By the time officials in the Rajya Sabha secretariat detected the error yesterday and the number was corrected by chairman Hamid Ansari, it was too late to introduce the amendment bill in the Lok Sabha.
“I am deeply anguished that the bill could not be taken up in the Lok Sabha. We were exceptionally keen to pass the bill... it is regrettable,” Sibal said.
“The secretariat realised some error has taken place. The patent error was immediately intimated to the chairman who corrected itů. The bill was printed and ready for passage. However, I regret despite our best efforts it could not be taken up by the Lok Sabha. It was not intentional,” he said.
The bill now has to wait for the next session to be introduced in the Lok Sabha.
Opposition parties had demanded an apology from Sibal, asking why the bill was rushed through in the Rajya Sabha while the enabling legislation, the Judicial Appointment Commission Bill that lays down the procedure for setting up the judicial commission, was referred to a parliamentary standing committee.
BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that the government did not do its homework. He said the amendment bill had been pushed through on the pretext that it had to be passed by the Lok Sabha the next day.
The Opposition parties had demanded that both the bills be sent to the House standing committee for a thorough examination. But Sibal had stressed on passing the constitutional amendment bill as the government wanted to enforce it within a few months and it had to be ratified by at least half the state legislatures. The BJP had walked out in protest.
CPM leader P. Rajeev and the Janata Dal (United)’s N.K. Singh said the government must explain why it had rushed the amendment bill in the upper House. The BJP’s Najma Heptullla said the person responsible for the error must be named.
The House was adjourned twice as parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath failed to pacify the Opposition MPs.
Trinamul Congress leader Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said the members had not examined the bill properly. “None of us applied proper mind to the bill. Otherwise the patent error should have been corrected,” he said.
PATENT ERROR: YOUR QUESTIONS
• What is patent error?
It is an error that does not amount to material change in content or substance. Typographical errors or errors in numbering etc are considered patent errors
• What is the patent error in the current bill?
The bill was introduced as Constitution (One Hundred Twentieth Amendment) Bill 2013. This is correct since the 119th amendment bill has been introduced earlier. But only the 98th amendment bill has been passed. So, after the bill was passed, its number should have been changed to 99. Instead, even after passage, the bill continued with the original title
• How are such errors corrected?
Such errors do not need to be referred back to the House for correction. The presiding officers — the Speaker in case of the Lok Sabha or the chairman in case of the Rajya Sabha — are authorised to correct these mistakes. In this case, chairman Hamid Ansari has already corrected the error
• What happens to the bill now?
It has to wait till the winter session to be brought to the Lok Sabha and will then be sent to state legislatures. At least half of the state legislatures have to ratify it, after which it will be sent to the President for assent
• Has any patent error been detected in any bill recently?
A typographical error had occurred in the Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2010, that sought to amend the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961. The bill wanted to include eight new IITs and the Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University, asinstitutions of national importance and integrate them with the existing IITs. In a particular section, the bill had wrongly referred to IT BHU as Indian Institute of Technology, BHU. This was corrected by the Lok Sabha Speaker.