NEW DELHI: A U-turn by the TMC on Monday ensured smooth passage in the Lok Sabha for the Trai Amendment Bill, which will clear the legal hurdles in the appointment of Nripendra Misra as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.
The sudden change in the TMC’s stand not only punctured the Congress’s plan to corner the BJP-led NDA government but also surprised smaller parties such as the RJD, AAP and the RSP as TMC MP Saugata Roy, who had jointly served a notice with the Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary, suddenly disappeared from the House. Roy had vehemently opposed the bill along with AAP, RJD and RSP members when it was introduced in the Lower House on Friday.
Roy appeared only after the Bill was passed and the Railway Budget was taken up for discussion.
In his absence, the TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay supported the Bill, saying his party didn’t oppose it in the “greater interest of governance”.
“If the Prime Minister thinks it’s proper to function or to work with somebody in a better way, he should be allowed to do so. For this reason, we do not oppose the bill,” Bandyopadhyay said.
The bill was later passed by a voice vote after a walkout by the Congress, RJD, AAP, RSP and the CPM. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said he had reached out to various Opposition parties and spoken to leaders of the SP, NCP, BJD, and the AIADMK, asking them “not to fall into the Congress’s trap by opposing the bill”.
Earlier, Union Minister for Law and Telecom Ravi Shankar Prasad argued that the first focus of the amendment ordinance, which had been brought in May to facilitate Misra’s appointment, was to ensure parity in law as other regulatory bodies such as the Competition Commission of India, Airports Economic Regulatory Authority and Sebi didn’t have such a provision barring their chiefs from taking up a government job after retirement.
As per the existing law, a former Trai chairman can take up a private job two years after retirement, but not a government job. Prasad further noted that no one had questioned the integrity and competence of the officer. “Let me assure this House that the officer in question is one of the finest officers we are having in the country as far as the Indian Administrative Service is concerned,” Prasad said while moving the bill to be passed. Opposing the Bill, Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge said no one was questioning the Prime Minister’s discretion but added that “the way the ordinance was brought was not right”. He said the restriction in the original Act was meant to enable the regulator to become neutral and work in public interest. The Bill, if passed by the Rajya Sabha as well, will replace the ordinance promulgated to amend the restrictive clause in the Trai Act.