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Cong plans a bill

The government is said to be toying with the idea of bringing in a legislation clearly spelling out what constitutes an office of profit.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2006 01:39 IST

The government is said to be toying with the idea of bringing in a legislation clearly spelling out what constitutes an office of profit in the wake of a growing convergence of interest among political parties on the issue that is beginning to take a toll of members in Parliament and state legislatures.

A final view is expected to emerge only after PM Manmohan Singh confers with UPA allies (like the RJD, DMK, NCP) early next week and the government follows it up with consultations with other political parties.

In Kolkata, former West Bengal CM Jyoti Basu demanded that Parliament define an office of profit. His party (the CPM) wants amendments to the existing Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act 1959 followed by a comprehensive legislation defining the office of profit. The BJP is keen on a legislation but not with retrospective effect.

The government seems to have dropped the idea of bringing an ordinance -- the move that raised a furore in Parliament as it was seen aimed at protecting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi from the allegation that she was holding an office of profit as chairperson of the NAC.

But it has not entirely closed, as an interim measure, the possibility of making amendments to the existing Act to exempt certain additional offices from being considered as offices of profit. "Making an exemption of an office as an office of profit means providing protection to it," said a cabinet minister. "Our purpose is to clearly define what is an office of profit. This would help in deciding whether an office is one of profit, without having to put it on the list."

In Chandigarh, Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj denied that the Centre had wanted to bring an ordinance. But he admitted he had started consultations with other parties about a fortnight ago to expand the list of posts exempted as offices of profit.