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House to discuss OoP issue

Govt may introduce a Bill to amend Prevention of Disqualification Act that led to Sonia's resignation.

india Updated: May 08, 2006 13:40 IST

After a prolonged recess, Parliament will resume next week and grapple with the issue that caused much consternation in the country's political circles -- the office-of-profit controversy.

During the session beginning on Wednesday, the government is likely to introduce a Bill to amend the Prevention of Disqualification Act that led to Congress president Sonia Gandhi's resignation from the Lok Sabha after actress-turned-politician Jaya Bachchan's expulsion from the Rajya Sabha.

Sonia resigned as Lok Sabha member and National Advisory Council (NAC) chairperson on March 23 after being accused of holding an office of profit.

The controversy began when the Election Commission disqualified Samajwadi Party leader Bachchan on the ground that her post as chairperson of Uttar Pradesh Film Development Corporation was an office of profit.

The office-of-profit controversy has dogged all political parties whose members are holding offices at the central or the state levels that disqualify them from being lawmakers/legislators.

The government has made its intentions known and hopes to arrive at a consensus because of the everyone-is-in-it situation among the elected members, including Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.

The other significant issue that the government wants to take up is an amendment to the law to ensure that witnesses do not turn hostile.

This follows a number of recent cases, including that of Zaheera Sheikh, the star witness in Gujarat's Best Bakery massacre trial, and the case of shooting of model Jessica Lall.

The parliament session ended abruptly on March 23, when the opposition prevented any work over the office-of-profit issue on the last day.

It charged the government with trying to save embarrassment and eventual disqualification of Gandhi.

Between March 23 and May 10, it was the longest recess within any budget session during which the Standing Committees met only perfunctorily and could not take up the Demands of Grants.

The whole idea behind constituting these committees is to ensure that budgetary allocations and other functions of the government are scrutinised closely by smaller parliamentary committees since the two houses have limited time. This has not been done adequately this year.

This session will have just 10 working days. Of them, the first day would be marked by obituary references and adjournment.

The Lok Sabha lost two members -- Mehboob Zahidi and former union minister from West Bengal ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury.

The Rajya Sabha lost Pramod Mahajan, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary.

Speaker Chatterjee will be meting leaders of parliamentary parties Tuesday to make his customary appeal -- which goes mostly unheeded -- for the smooth functioning of parliament.

First Published: May 07, 2006 11:15 IST