President A P J Abdul Kalam may not be in office when the joint Parliamentary committee set up to examine the constitutional and legal position relating to office of profit submits its report. The panel, which was to submit its report during the last week of the ongoing Budget session of Parliament, has decided to seek another extension. With the session scheduled to close on May 22, the decision to seek an extension was taken at a meeting of the parliamentary panel on Wednesday, with the Budget session scheduled to close
The 15-member panel was constituted when the President raised certain queries while returning the Office of Profit bill that sought to exempt over 50 posts from attracting disqualification with retrospective effect, including that of chairperson of National Advisory Council which Sonia Gandhi held and the Sriniketan Shantiniketan trust headed by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee. Earlier, Sonia resigned her Lok Sabha seat and was re-elected with a thumping majority from Rae Bareli.
When the bill was passed again by the two Houses of Parliament in August 2006, the Government assured members of the two Houses that it would go into the issues raised by the President. The Parliament (prevention of disqualification) bill was then signed by the President who has no option but to put his assent on the bill passed twice though the Constitution does not set a deadline for putting his signature to it. The bill stands challenged in court.
The panel, headed by Iqbal Ahmed Saradgi, was entrusted with the task of suggesting a comprehensive definition of office of profit, recommend just, fair and reasonable criteria applicable to all states and Union Territories, examine the feasibility of adopting a system of law relating to prevention of disqualification of MPs.
So far, the panel has made two tours to Kolkata and Chennai and to Mumbai and Bangalore as part of its interaction with constitutional and legal experts, academicians, law institutes, bar councils, public bodies or individuals and state governments. It has, for instance, interacted with legal experts like Harish Salve, Fali Nariman and Rajeev Dhawan.