The unscheduled foreign jaunt of Punjab home minister and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has forced the Parkash Singh Badalled Akali Dal-BJP government to defer the assembly session by a fortnight.
The session will now start on September 19 and not on September 5 as decided by the cabinet on August 10. The five-day Vidhan Sabha session will have its last sitting on September 23, government sources said.
The deputy chief minister, who holds seven significant portfolios — home, governance reforms, housing and urban development, excise and taxation, investment promotion, power and sports — is out of the country reportedly on a private trip between August 28 and September 9.
After the August 10 meeting, the government had announced that the cabinet has “approved recommending to the governor” to summon the 13th session of the 14th Punjab Vidhan Sabha from September 5 to September 9.
Despite this official announcement of the assembly session schedule by the government, secretary (parliamentary affairs) KAP Sinha said: “The Vidhan Sabha session dates were not fixed. The session will be held from September 19 to September 23.”
Local bodies minister (BJP) Anil Joshi said: “In the last cabinet meeting, it was decided to convene the session from September 5. I am not aware whether the session has been deferred.”
Also, till Tuesday, the government had not officially conveyed to the Vidhan Sabha secretariat about the new dates of the assembly session. Nor did the government intimate the Vidhan Sabha about the August 10 cabinet decision to start the assembly session from September 5.
“We are yet to receive the communication from the government about summoning the session. We have no official information,” Shashi Mishra, secretary, Vidhan Sabha, said when contacted.
The presence of the home minister is essential in the session as the poll-bound government is likely to move amendment bills concerning the departments of which Sukhbir Badal is the minister. The Opposition, Congress, is gearing up to corner the government over deteriorating law and order in the state and failure of the police to crack the highprofile murder cases.
It is learnt that a bill will be introduced to amend Punjab Right to Service Commission Act-2011 to increase the strength of its members from four to 10 members. The cabinet had issued an ordinance in this connection.
Another ‘politically important’ amendment bill the Badal government will introduce is about temporary release of the prisoners. The cabinet has given its nod for introducing a liberal parole regime.
Now, the “sufficient cause” for parole will be “critical condition of any member of the family on account of illness, repair/renovation of houses and agriculture and allied activities” either on quarterly basis or half-yearly basis in a calendar year, instead of only quarterly basis.