President seeks clarifications on ordinance protecting convicted lawmakers

NEW DELHI (TIP): President Pranab Mukherjee has sought clarifications from senior Cabinet ministers on the justification for bringing an ordinance that allows convicted lawmakers to hold on to their seats in Parliament and state legislatures. The President, who was forwarded the ordinance cleared by the Cabinet on Tuesday, sought clarifications separately from home minister Sushil Shinde, parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath and law minister Kapil Sibal. The inquiry came against the backdrop of demands from the BJP, the Left, the Aam Aadmi Party and civil society activists that the President reject the ordinance. Government sources sought to play down the President’s queries, saying that as a stickler for norms, he was doing due diligence and may approve the ordinance after meeting the AAP delegation on Friday.

Ordinances are meant for urgent situations during the periods when Parliament is not in session. Opposition and others have argued that in this instance, there is no urgency except the government’s anxiety to save RJD boss Lalu Prasad from a possible setback in a Ranchi court which is trying him for complicity in the fodder scam. The politically crucial judicial order is set for Monday. The government strongly supported the ordinance disregarding growing concern within its own ranks that the ordinance would boomerang on the Congress at a time when it’s already facing heat over corruption, particularly in urban areas. A BJP delegation led by L K Advani and comprising Leaders of Opposition in the two Houses, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely, earlier called on President to urge him to reject the Ordinance. “The Indian government is trying to dilute this (convicted lawmakers) decision of the Supreme Court.

It should realize that the ordinance is against the Constitution,” Advani told reporters after meeting the President.With the debate escalating, finance minister P Chidambaram questioned the BJP’s opposition to the ordinance, saying the main opposition party was changing its stand. He cited the case of a BJP minister in Gujarat who continued to hold office despite being convicted. “Mr Bokhiria is minister of mines and belongs to the BJP. He has been convicted for a period of three years,” Chidambaram told reporters.

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