//Office of Profit Bill to be re-presented: Bhardwaj

Office of Profit Bill to be re-presented: Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI, MAY 31 (PTI)

Unfazed by the President's action in returning the Office of Profit Bill, the government on Wednesday said it will re-present the legislation that seeks to exempt several posts from being considered office of profit in Parliament in the coming monsoon session and the Cabinet will decide on Thursday whether it should be in the "present form or amended form".

Law Minister H R Bhardwaj told reporters that there was no lacunae in the bill passed by Parliament in the middle of April, but since the President has returned it "we would respectfully reconsider it".

Dismissing suggestions that the action of the President was a "setback" to the government, he said this was part of the democratic process, which has various checks and balances.

Besides, he said, if Parliament approved the measure in its present form, then the President would have to give his assent.

Bhardwaj said he was in constant touch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue and had already prepared a note for the consideration of the Cabinet, which is meeting on Thursday.

The Cabinet, he said, would decide on whether to bring the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill to Parliament in its present form or an amended form.

Replying to questions, Bhardwaj expressed confidence that the office of profit bill, passed by Parliament, would pass judicial scrutiny.

"I do not see any deficiency. We do not frame wrong legislations. But even the best of legislations are judicially challenged. The courts have the powers of judicial review," the Law Minister said.

Asked if the Election Commission could take action against MPs on the office-of-profit issue before the fresh legislation is tabled in Parliament, the Law Minister said "I don't know … can't say anything on this. But we will table the bill as soon as possible, most probably in the Monsoon Session".

When pressed repeatedly whether the action of the President was a "setback" and an "embarrassment" for the government, he said "how can it be a setback? It has been passed by both Houses of Parliament. Later it was in the purview of the President and his direction will be respectfully considered".

He also refuted suggestions that it was wrong to give effect to the legislation retrospectively. "It is very much valid. There cannot be two question on this. Every now and then we revalidate the law. It is a valid concept in law".

To a question on the President's suggestion for a uniform law for the entire country, Bhardwaj said it was not possible as the state legislatures had different laws on the matter and had their own prerogative to declare any office as office of profit or exempt any one from the list.

"The Opposition parties will always say like this," Bhardwaj remarked when asked that the BJP-led Opposition was claiming that the bill approved by Parliament would not stand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.

The Minister also refuted suggestions that there should be a uniform law for the entire country.

He said the country had a federal structure and the state legislatures had their own preferences and prerogative of exempting any office or including any one from the list of offices of profit.

The Minister's remarks came a day after Kalam returned the bill to Parliament for reconsideration for a "comprehensive and generic" criteria.

The President also wanted the criteria to be "fair and reasonable" and applicable in a "clear and transparent" manner across all the states and union territories.

Another important point the President raised was in regard to the posts sought to be exempted by the new law.

In only the third instance of this kind in recent history, he urged both houses of Parliament, which passed the bill in the just concluded session, to reconsider the propriety of the applicability of law with retrospective effect.