New Delhi, Jul 14 (PTI): The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a controversial Bill legalising the appointment of retired telecom regulator Nripendra Misra as principal secretary to the Prime Minister, despite the opposition of a clutch of parties.
While the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Aam Aadmi Party and Revolutionary Socialist Party opposed the Bill --- but not the person being appointed-- the Trinamul Congress did an about turn from its stand last week and backed the Bill on Monday.
Replying to a discussion during which the government came under attack, Minister for Law and Telecom Ravi Shankar Prasad said the focus of the measure was to remove “a palpable anomaly” as the existing law provided that a retired chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) could take up private job two years after retirement but not a government job.
Other regulatory bodies such as the Competition Commission, the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority and Securities & Exchange Board of India do not have such provision, he said, adding the government decided to amend the law to bring parity.
The Bill was later passed by a voice vote after the Congress, RJD, AAP, RSP and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) walked out in protest.
Those opposing the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill to replace an ordinance said they were not casting any doubt on the integrity and honesty of the person concerned, but were against the flouting of democratic norms and procedures.
The Bill replaces an ordinance issued on May 28 to amend a clause in the TRAI Act by which Misra could not have been appointed to any government post after retirement.
Misra, a 1967-batch IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre who retired in 2009, joined the PMO the same day the ordinance was promulgated and the Bill was being brought to give his appointment the requisite legal backing.
TMC leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, whose party had opposed the Bill last week, supported the measure saying the Prime Minister had “the right to appoint any officer who he feels fit...in the greater interests of better governance.”
His party colleague Saugata Roy had said the Bill was being brought “merely to give a government job to a superannuated TRAI Chairman, thereby taking away the independence of TRAI.”
Roy was not present in the House on Monday.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had apparently reached out to various Opposition parties for their support.
AIADMK leader M Thambidurai also supported the measure, prompting Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge to say “I don't know what compulsions they had” for taking such a stand.
Reacting to this, Thambidurai immediately stood up to say that the Prime Minister had “made a choice and there is no need to oppose it.”