NEW DELHI: A bill which makes wilful neglect of duties by public servants in issues relating to atrocities against the SC and ST a punishable offence was referred to the Standing Committee by Lok Sabha amid protests and objections from Congress.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan referred the bill to the Standing Committee amid disruptions from opposition members including Congress, RJD and RSP demanding immediate statement from External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik's meeting with the 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed.
Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said he would go by the orders of the Speaker on the measure when she asked whether it should be referred to the Standing Committee.
When the House returned to order following a statement from the External Affairs Minister on the Vaidik issue and resumed debate on the general budget, leader of the Congress Mallikarjun Kharge raised the issue of the bill and objected to its being referred to the Standing Committee.
At one point, Kharge went to Mulayam Singh Yadav whom the Speaker had asked to resume the debate on Budget, but the SP chief was not impressed.
Kharge as also another Congress member K H Muniappa insisted that the issue involved 23 per cent of the population in the country and they wanted to have their say in the matter.
Supporting their contention, their party colleague Shashi Tharoor raised a point of order saying it was not proper to take a decision when the House was not in order.
Mahajan overruled all the objections observing that opposition would have come to know of the bill being referred to the Standing Committee if they had not resorted to din.
A decision has been taken by the House to refer the bill to the Standing Committee and more discussion sought by opposition could be possible in such a Committee, she observed.
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2014, seeks to replace an Ordinance. The bill states that if a public servant, who is not a member of a SC or ST, wilfully neglects his duties required to be performed by him under this Act, he or she shall be punished with imprisonment for a term from six months to one year.
The bill also makes provisions for states to set up special courts to try offences under the Act.