As the blame game continued over the controversial draft ordinance that the Cabinet withdrew on Wednesday Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley vehemently denied Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath’s claim that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had agreed to help pass the bill on disqualification of convicted legislators.
In a detailed note, Mr. Jaitley asserted that on more than one occasion he and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had made it abundantly clear that a bill of such nature would be unconstitutional without a simultaneous amendment of the Constitution.
He said that he was opposed to a constitutional amendment as it would have conveyed to the people that lawmakers could go to the extent of amending the Constitution to shield themselves. Accusing the government of indulging in a disinformation campaign, Mr. Jaitley maintained the bill was never brought up during the all-party meeting.
National spokesperson of the BJP, Prakash Javadekar, also questioned the so-called minutes of the meeting, which were flaunted by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, and challenged him to produce proof of when and where they were prepared.
Mr. Jaitley suggested that the government’s managers were trying to create confusion by citing the agreement reached at the meeting, on passing a bill to nullify the Supreme Court judgment on barring candidates in police custody.
The apex court, he said, had delivered two separate judgments in quick succession — one on debarring candidates in police custody and the other on disqualification of convicted legislators.
All the political parties, including the BJP, felt that debarring candidates in police custody would be prone to misuse, thereby destroying democratic process, Mr. Jaitley said.
Following up on the all-party agreement, the law amending Section 62(5) of The Representation of the People Act was passed at the recently concluded monsoon session of Parliament.
On the apex court’s judgment on disqualification of convicted lawmakers, Mr. Jaitley said that the “impression” conveyed was that the government would finalise a proposal and refer the matter to a Standing Committee for formulation of opinion.
Against this backdrop, the BJP, Mr. Jaitley said, had opposed the bill when it was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, and compelled the government to refer it a Parliamentary standing committee. “We were shocked when the Ordinance was issued even though a Bill was pending consideration before the Standing Committee. We opposed the issuance of the Ordinance on several grounds.”