May 31, 2006 at 12:04pm IST

Kalam returns Office of Profit Bill

New Delhi: President A P J Abdul Kalam on Tuesday night returned the Office of Profit of Bill for reconsideration by both Houses of Parliament.

The Parliament's Budget session had this month approved the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill 2006, which exempts 56 posts from being considered offices of profit.

Kalam wanted "comprehensive and generic" criteria for the exemptions. The criteria should be "fair and reasonable" and applicable in a "clear and transparent" manner across all states and union territories, he said while returning the Bill.

He urged both Houses of Parliament to reconsider the propriety of the applying the law with retrospective effect. He wants this to be considered afresh, sources said.

Kalam, who received the Bill on May 25 for assent, took the decision after giving "careful" thought and consultation with judicial and legal experts.

A PTI report, which quoted senior officials, said the Government is likely to reintroduce the Bill in the coming monsoon session of Parliament.

"The Union Cabinet will first consider the message sent by the President," said officials.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi resigned as the chairpersonship of the National Advisory Council after the Opposition alleged that it was an office of profit. The Bill exempted the post.

The chairpersonship of Sriniketan-Santiniketan Development Authority, a post held by Speaker Somnath Chaterjee, was also exempted.

Some other offices exempted include the chairpersonship of UP Development Council, headed by Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and the now defunct All India Council of Sports earlier headed BJP leader V K Malhotra.

BJP, Cong start row

The BJP said Kalam's decision was a "rap on the knuckles of the UPA government".

Party spokesperson Arun Jaitley demanded that the Election Commission declare as vacant the seats of those politicians "who were sought to be protected by the legislation".

"The return of the Bill is a rap on the knuckles of the UPA government which had converted unconstitutionality into a mode of governance. The BJP and NDA had opposed this law as violation of the Constitution," he said

"The law was immoral because Parliament was legislating not in public interest but in self-interest. There was no rationale why the law should have been made retrospective by 47 years from 1959," he said. The President had "rightly sent it back".

The Congress hit back by saying the President has every right to raise queries about any Bill sent to him by Parliament.

"This is a constitutional process. The President has the right to raise queries. Both the Houses of Parliament have the right to pass such Bills and the Government has the right to return the legislation again to the President. This is a constitutional process", party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.