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Rahul power: Cabinet withdraws ordinance, bill on lawmakers

Last updated on: October 02, 2013 21:48 IST

Reversing its earlier step, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday decided to withdraw the ordinance as well as bill that sought to give protection to convicted lawmakers in the wake of public outburst against it by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.

The Cabinet took the decision in a meeting of about 20 minutes which was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The decision capped a day of hectic activities which included Rahul Gandhi meeting the prime minister which was followed by a meeting of Congress core group headed by party president Sonia Gandhi.

"The Union Cabinet unanimously decided that the ordinance regarding certain aspects of the Representation of the People Act as well as the Bill (pending in Parliament) should be withdrawn," Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told reporters.

The Cabinet had approved on September 24 the ordinance which sought to negate the Supreme Court order of July 10 which ruled that any lawmaker would stand immediately disqualified if convicted by a court.

The overturning of the decision came in the wake of Rahul Gandhi's trashing of the ordinance as "nonsense". He had said it should be "torn" and "thrown out".

Rahul Gandhi's public outburst was seen as undermining the authority of the prime minister who was on a visit to the US but the government finally toed his line.

The ordinance was not signed by President Pranab Mukherjee as he too had reservations on it.

Government had resorted to the ordinance route after it failed to get a bill in this regard passed by Parliament during the monsoon session which ended last month.

Tewari said an "appropriate motion will be moved at appropriate time when Parliament meets" for withdrawal of the bill.

Explaining the reasons for reversing the decision, he said the government reconsidered the issue after Rahul Gandhi gave his opinion based on the "widest feedback".

He said the prime minister had articulated on Tuesday that "democracy is not a monolithic authority" and there can be reconsideration.

When pointed out that the government had earlier strongly justified the ordinance, Tewari said he and several other ministers had defended it as it was their duty to defend a Cabinet decision.

He said the reversal of the decision shows that the government is sensitive to the wishes of the people.

"It was a cabinet decision in the beginning, it is a Cabinet decision now. That's all that I know. I am not the one for post-mortem. Its over. Let's forget it because the way you people (media) keep on hammering this, is not the right way of going about it," Union Minister Farooq Abdullah said.

Union minister and RLD chief Ajit Singh said the decision to withdraw the ordinance does not undermine PM's authority.

"Party is always supreme. The Congress Core Committee had supported the ordinance earlier and now has decided to withdraw it and PM being a Congress leader has followed the party's decision," he said.

He said BJP had supported the bill at the all-party meet and changed track due to public pressure. "What is wrong if Congress has also responded to public sentiments," he asked.

Before the Cabinet meeting at 6 pm, the Prime Minister had consulted Attorney General G E Vahanvati on the legalities involved in withdrawing the proposed ordinance.

Sources said the Cabinet also decided to withdraw Representation of the People (Second Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013 as the proposed legislation has no relevance after the withdrawal of the ordinance.

The ordinance is a copy of the bill pending in the Rajya Sabha. "If the ordinance is bad in law, then the bill too is bad in law. How can the bill be brought before Parliament for consideration and passage under such circumstances," a minister said.

After the decision to withdraw the bill and the ordinance, the July 10 Supreme court ruling on immediate disqualification of convicted MPs, MLAs and MLCs is the law of the land. "Any new step regarding the judgement will be taken by the government after consulting political parties," the minister said.

A request now will be placed before the President to allow the government to withdraw the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (Amendment) Ordinance (Second), 2013.

As regards to the bill pending in the Rajya Sabha, government will move a resolution in the upper house during the Winter session.

Meanwhile, Chairman Rajya Sabha and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee before which the measure is pending will be informed about the decision of the Cabinet.

Image: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi

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