Special Correspondent

Furore over resolution on arrest warrant continues

  • Speaker rushes through the business for the day
  • VS, Kodiyeri engage in verbal duel with Oommen Chandy

    THIRUVANATHAPURAM: The tussle between the treasury and Opposition benches over the arrest warrant against Power Minister A.K. Balan snowballed into yet another showdown between the two sides in the Assembly on Wednesday with the Opposition bringing the proceedings to a halt during zero hour as a mark of protest against what it termed `arbitrariness on the part of the Government.'

    The Opposition members rushed to the well of the House and kept up a steady sloganeering for almost half an hour after a protracted procedural wrangle forcing Speaker K. Radhakrishnan to rush through the business scheduled for the day, including discussion and adoption of the much-debated Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions (Amendment) Bill, and close the sitting at 10.40 a.m.

    Normal business hit

    The House could hardly transact normal business amidst the sloganeering. It is the repeated interventions by treasury bench members as Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy spoke that brought matters to a head.

    Earlier, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan were engaged in a verbal duel with Mr. Chandy and Kerala Congress (M) leader K.M. Mani over the Opposition charge that the Government had pushed the resolution against the Ottappalam First Class Judicial Magistrate's arrest warrant against the Power Minister in a grossly arbitrary manner without permitting the Opposition to register its dissent.

    Chandy's charge

    Mr. Chandy said the Government had triggered an unnecessary conflict with the judiciary by passing the resolution. The Power Minister had absented from the Magistrate Court on May 26, the day when the arrest warrant was issued and he was sentenced in absentia to two years' imprisonment for his involvement in a `rail roko' agitation in December 2000, on account of poor legal advice. He wanted to know how could the Opposition make its views on the resolution known when it had no clue about its contents. He warned the Government that the resolution would set a bad precedent and urged it to withdraw it. However, the Chief Minister brushed aside his arguments and said there was no other go but to adopt the resolution because the arrest warrant amounted to an affront to the Legislature.

    Nobody had anything against the sentence, but the arrest warrant could not be taken lightly because it was issued even after the court was informed that Mr. Balan and M. Chandran, MLA, had to attend the Assembly session convened by the Governor, he argued. It was the responsibility of Constitutional bodies such as the Legislature and the Judiciary to maintain cordial relations between each other. Instead of striving to do so, the court had tried to humiliate the Legislature. Although the Government had tried to bring the Opposition on board on the resolution, it had adopted a negative attitude on the issue. This was most unfortunate, Mr. Achuthanandan said.

    Speaker's stance

    Homer Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said he had had discussions with Opposition leaders on the subject and had received a negative reply from them. Winding up the discussion, the Speaker said it would not be in the fitness of things to prolong the discussion and that he personally wanted to ensure that there was no conflict with the Judiciary.

    That prompted Mr. Chandy to rise to his feet with his objections to the Government stand. When his speech was greeted with repeated interventions from the treasury benches, the agitated Opposition members moved to the front row. Mr. Chandy refused to pacify them and all hell broke loose.

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