The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani ‘letoff’ debate

New Delhi, July 22: Under pressure from the Opposition, the Centre has agreed to allow a discussion in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow on the CBI’s decision to drop conspiracy charges against deputy prime Minister L.K. Advani and seven others in the Babri Masjid demolition case.

The Centre has also allowed a discussion in the Lok Sabha tomorrow to debate the admissibility of a motion on the same issue. But if the Lower House Speaker refuses to admit the motion, there will be no discussion.

Parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said: “There will be debate on the admissibility of the motion in the Lok Sabha. It has been decided all parties will abide by the Speaker’s decision, whichever way it goes.”

The move came after the Opposition demanded a discussion on the decision to drop charges against Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Uma Bharti and others.

The Opposition had earlier demanded a discussion under Rule 168, which Rajya Sabha chairperson Bhairon Singh Shekhawat rejected, saying the matter was sub judice. Opposition and NDA leaders thrashed out the issue at the Business Advisory Committee meeting later.

“Since the matter is of public importance, we explored the possibility of a discussion under Rule 176,” said Swaraj. Under this rule, the discussion does not attract the sub judice clause. Union law minister Arun Jaitley will reply to the discussion in the Upper House.

In the Lok Sabha, if Manohar Joshi gives a favourable ruling the Opposition will discuss the matter for the whole day. “Even if the ruling is not favourable, we will abide by it and take our battle out of Parliament,” said Lok Sabha Congress member, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

Shekhawat had earlier refused to allow the Opposition to table a motion on the CBI’s decision. “I cannot allow the motion to be admitted because the Babri Masjid case is under adjudication in a court of law,” he said after an hour-long discussion on the motion’s admissibility. Both Houses adjourned three times on the issue.

In the Rajya Sabha, Congress MP Pranab Mukherjee said: “The CBI has simply withdrawn these cases. This indicates not only misuse of the CBI as an investigating agency but also its role in subverting the rule of law by influencing the judicial process.”

Jaitley, who has been handling the discussion for the Centre, told the House: “The Rajya Sabha can have no role in deciding under what section of the IPC a person can be booked. Is this the forum to analyse the evidence related to the case'”

Denying that the CBI had dropped criminal conspiracy charges against the eight leaders, the law minister said: “The CBI has chargesheeted the accused under five different sections. It is now open to the magistrate to add an extra section or delete a section.”

At a news conference later, senior CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee responded to Jaitley’s remarks. “Why is the law minister talking on this issue' We would like to hear what the Prime Minister has to say on the issue.”

Chatterjee said the Opposition was unhappy that the Centre was providing explanations through Jaitley.

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