IndiaPolitics

Kalam's Backbone and the Office of Profit (Loot actually)!

Prez Abdul Kalam is a special person – I think this is something that every Indian realizes. He is not the usual kind of politician or even citizen! Much as honest Dr. Singh, the brilliant PM of ours is.. he seems to have at many times compromised on truth and integrity when it came to the crunch. I am not sure whether he an “ass-kisser” of Sonia or generally a timid soul who cannot be firm.. but there have been enough times when he disappointed me BIG time!!

The Office of Profit controversy that was started by the Congress Party always had a streak of connivance about it.. and coming from the Congress it was hypocritical, if anything! All their people have managed and owned the public trusts while in the Parliament from Najma Heptullah to Sonia Gandhi. The Rajiv Gandhi Fund/Trust, the Nehru Trust or whatever have always been filled to the brim at the cost of the tax payers to virtually pay crores to the Gandhi family and their cohorts! So I think it was befitting they these bastards got some stinking red noses!

When none else worked and these nincompoops tried to strong arm this bill through the Parliament, it was finally left to one guy in the entire polity.. .who has that rare appendage in his body called BACK BONE to throw the thing back!! What he did was unprecendented for a President of India (merely a decorated post with little, if any powers)!! He used the ONLY powers that were possible in the most telling manner possible.

Read all about it below!

When President A P J Abdul Kalam consulted former Chief Justice of India V N Khare and two retired judges informally on the Office of Profit Bill, the Congress top brass started getting jittery that the President was becoming ‘hyperactive’ on the issue.

Their fears were well-founded, as President Kalam not only refused to sign the Bill but, instead of sending it back to the prime minister, he sent it to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

According to sources, President Kalam was keeping track of developments in the Office of Profit controversy and was well aware of the nuances.

When the Bill came up for his approval he had two considerations.

One, he didn’t want to burn his fingers like in 2005 when, while in Moscow and in the dead of night, he approved the Union Cabinet’s decision to impose President’s Rule in Bihar. And, second, he firmly believed that the manner in which exemptions were sought in the Bill for some offices of profit was not constitutionally correct.

On May 25, when the Bill came to him for approval he felt the manner in which exemptions were given was erratic. If Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee was given an exemption for heading the Santiniketan Development Authority, why were similar posts in other states not included in the list?

For example, Bharat Bhavan in Madhya Pradesh, which also promotes art and culture, was not included in the exempted list.

Why amend the Constitution only to accommodate a few who risk losing their membership of the House?

The office of profit concept was developed by the founding fathers of the Constitution who believed Parliament should and must question the Executive.

But since ministers and a few members of Parliament may also hold executive posts while in Parliament, came the idea of giving select and careful exemptions to some offices held by them.

The President’s message was to make the exemptions list in the Bill more purposeful.

When the Bill contained more than 40 exemptions, most experts told the President that it subverted the principle behind the original concept.

With the President’s action, all the MPs who supported the Bill — including from the Left parties — have lost the high moral ground.

Anil Dewan, constitutional expert and senior advocate, told rediff.com, “Do you think MPs will criticise and oppose the organisation they head outside Parliament? It is Parliament’s prime duty to question the Executive and its actions. This Bill defeats that role.”

In his action President Kalam was guided by Article 111 of the Constitution, which states:

Assent to Bills: When a Bill has been passed by the Houses of Parliament, it shall be presented to the President, and the President shall declare either that he assents to the Bill, or that he withholds assent therefrom: provided that the President may, as soon as possible after the presentation to him of a Bill for assent, return the Bill if it is not a Money Bill to the Houses with a message requesting that they will reconsider the Bill or any specified provisions thereof and, in particular, will consider the desirability of introducing any such amendments as he may recommend in his message, and when a Bill is so returned, the Houses shall reconsider the Bill accordingly, and if the Bill is passed again by the Houses with or without amendment and presented to the President for assent, the President shall not withhold assent therefrom.

Thus, President Kalam had three choices.

1. Give his assent to the Bill.
2. Simply refuse to sign it.
3. Exercise his right to send back the Bill with a message to Parliament to make changes in it.

The President has little choice but to act ‘under the advice of the Council of Ministers or the prime minister’, but under Article 111 the President need not ‘act under advice’ but can take an independent view.

Kalam has opted for the third option.

A senior Supreme Court advocate says, “What is unusual here is that Kalam has used his independent powers. He has not acted on the advice of the Council of Ministers or the prime minister as was the case in the last two precedents when Presidents sent back Bills passed by Parliament.”

On October 19, 1986, Parliament passed the Indian Post Office (Amendment) Bill which approved the interception of personal correspondence of citizens, and submitted it to President Giani Zail Singh.

The President simply sat on the Bill.

When V P Singh became prime minister he requested President R Venkatraman to send it back to Parliament.

Another Bill relating to perks and privileges of members of Parliament was also ‘returned on the advice’ of Prime Minister V P Singh since the Bill had ‘procedural infirmities’.

Kalam’s refusal to sign the OoP bill is thus unique, for here the President has made full use of his right to take independent decisions under Article 111. For this, Kalam’s decision deserves praise.

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Details of “Office of Profit”, Sonia Gandhi and the NAC

What is an office of profit?

An office of profit means a position that brings to the person holding it some financial gain, or advantage, or benefit.

It may be an office or place of profit if it carries some remuneration, financial advantage, benefit etc.

The amount of such profit is immaterial.

Is there a rule that a member of Parliament or a member of a state legislative assembly cannot hold an office of profit?

Yes. Article 102 (1)(A) of the Indian Constitution bars an MP or an MLA from holding any office of profit under the Government of India or in any state other than an office declared by the Parliament by law as not disqualifying its holder.

Is the National Advisory Council post, which Sonia held apart from being the MP from Rae Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, an office of profit?

The Opposition parties say it is; and they petitioned President A P J Abdul Kalam asking him to disqualify Sonia as an MP.

As the NAC Chairperson, she enjoyed the rank and status of a Union Cabinet minister.

Congress leaders argue that the post of NAC chairperson is not an office of profit as Sonia received no salary or perks, and she had a purely advisory role.

What exactly is the NAC?

The United Progressive Alliance government led by the Congress set up the NAC in 2004 as an interface between the people and the government with regard to the implementation of the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme.

The NAC comprises distinguished professionals drawn from diverse fields of development activity who serve in their individual capacities.

Through the NAC, the government has access not only to their expertise and experience but also to a larger network of research organisations, non-governmental organisations and social action and advocacy groups. The NAC makes detailed recommendations to the government in the areas of priority identified in the CMP.

Who pays for the NAC’s functioning?

The Government of India. It has given the NAC office space in New Delhi and the central government pays for the NAC’s expenditure. The money is provided through the Prime Minister’s Office.

Does Sonia hold any other post?

She is also the chairperson of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, the Jawaharlal Nehru Trust and the Indira Gandhi Trust, which Opposition leaders say are also offices of profit.

Does the controversy involve any other politician?

The Election Commission has sent a notice to Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, Rajya Sabha member and chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh Industrial Development Council, on a similar petition against him.

It is being said that in all about 62 MPs are in various offices of profit.

Petitions have been filed for the disqualification of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee (Chairman of Sriniketan-Santinikatan Development Authority), Union Minister T Subbirami Reddy (Chairman, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams), senior Congress leader Karan Singh (ICCR), nominated Rajya Sabha member Kapila Vatsyayan and V K Malhotra (former president of the All India Council of Sports).

Wasn’t the government planning to redefine office of profit?

Yes, The government has been planning to make an amendment to the Members of Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act.

Sonia reportedly insisted that she does not want the NAC to be protected under the new Ordinance.

She apparently told Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh that she did not want to be seen as having benefited from any legal device.

courtesy: Rediff.com

Desh Kapoor

The panache of a writer is proven by the creative pen he uses to transform the most mundane topic into a thrilling story. Desh – the author, critic and analyst uses the power of his pen to create thought-provoking pieces from ordinary topics of discussion. He writes on myriad interesting themes. Read the articles to know more about his views and “drishtikone”.

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