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Kalam clears office of profit bill

Special Correspondent

Sent again to him on August 9

NEW DELHI: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Friday gave assent to the amended Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959, popularly known as the office of profit bill that whipped up a controversy.

Mr. Kalam returned the bill on May 25 and it was passed again by Parliament in the last week of July. It was sent again to Mr. Kalam on August 9 for his assent. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called on the President twice and the issue is reported to have figured in the discussions. The controversy also saw debates in political circles on Presidential powers.

The Act exempts 56 posts from the purview of the bill, giving a reprieve to MPs who could have otherwise faced disqualification.

The Presidential assent came a day after the Lok Sabha adopted a motion to constitute a 15-member Joint Parliamentary Committee to look into the comprehensive definition of "office of profit."

While returning the Bill, the President expressed concern over the lack of "unambiguous" definition of "office of profit" and wanted it applied across all the States and the Union Territories in a uniform manner.

The JPC's terms of reference precisely seek to address the concerns voiced by Mr. Kalam. He sent back the bill under Article 111 of the Constitution for reconsideration by Parliament.

However, the Union Cabinet cleared the bill without making any changes, and the Rajya Sabha passed it on July 29. The Lok Sabha gave its approval two days later.

BJP's opposition

The Opposition, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, put up a stiff resistance to the Government move to get the bill passed without changes and brushing aside the President's concerns.

The controversy over the issue of "office of profit" began with the disqualification of the Samajwadi Party's Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan in March.

It led to Congress president Sonia Gandhi resigning her Lok Sabha seat and seeking re-election from Rae Bareli in May. Ms. Gandhi was also holding the additional office of Chairperson of the National Advisory Council, a Cabinet-rank post.

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