Can Kurien chair a debate on sexual offences legislation?

P.J. Kurien.   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

Amid the growing demand for the resignation of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, who has been linked to the Suryanelli sexual assault case, there is a question mark on whether he should preside over a discussion on an ordinance dealing with sexual offences (to be replaced by a Bill) when it is debated in the House. Normally, the Deputy Chairman presides for the better part of the discussion on most legislation that come up for consideration and passage.

Sources said that although technically there is no bar, it is a matter of ‘‘propriety’’ whether Prof. Kurien should be in the chair when the House discusses the ordinance/Bill on sexual offences against women based on the recommendations of the J.S. Verma Committee, set up after the gang rape and death of a paramedical student in New Delhi.

Off the record, a few MPs said it is not ‘‘tenable’’ for Prof. Kurien to preside over the discussion and there will be a demand on the floor of the House for him not to chair the proceedings when he himself has been accused in such a matter.

No official word

There is no official word from the Rajya Sabha on the issue, but sources said it would have to be an ‘‘individual’’ decision or a decision of the Congress party.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, which has been signed by the President and has become law, has to be laid in both Houses of Parliament along with a statement by the government explaining the circumstances that necessitated legislation by ordinance. The budget session of Parliament is beginning on February 21.

The ordinance was promulgated even as the Standing Committee on Home Affairs, chaired by M. Venkaiah Naidu, was examining the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, which was referred to it.

Mr. Naidu told The Hindu that the committee will discuss the recommendations of the Verma committee on February 11 and submit its report before Parliament commences. If the government accepts its suggestions, then it will have to move official amendments to the Bill that will replace the ordinance.

‘‘However, what I have to say about the ordinance, its timing and the government’s intentions and purpose, I will say on the floor of the House,’’ he said.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 1:26:55 PM |

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