NEW DELHI: While the opposition was stuck up on making loud noises over ‘journalist’ Ved Prakash Vaidik’s controversial rendezvous with 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, a Bill that makes willful neglect of atrocity-issues against SC/STs by a public servant a punishable offense was quickly referred to the Standing Committee in the din.
What was even more surprising, the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowered is yet to be constituted. As a result, the Bill that was brought in to replace the ordinance is now on the backburner. And the ordinance would lapse.
Before the opposition—the Congress, RJD and the Left vocal against diluting the stringent provision of the Bill/ordinance—could react, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, had already given her ruling amidst the disruption.
Seeing the disarray in the opposition camp, still stuck on demanding a statement from External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said he would go by the Speaker’s order and refer it to the Standing Committee.
By the time Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised objection to the Bill being referred to the Standing Committee after the debate on the General Budget resumed, it was too late.
His visible attempt to win support from SP chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav—he walked over to convince him—elicited no response and Mahajan over-ruled his objections.
The Bill - to replace the ordinance passed two days before the model code of conduct came into effect before the Lok Sabha elections - states that if a public servant, not an SC/ST, willfully neglects the duties required to be performed by him under the Act, he can face up to six years imprisonment. The Bill also makes provisions for the states to set up special courts to try offences under the Act.
Though the government was piloting the Bill, sources indicated that the provisions of the Bill are too stringent and need re-visiting. However, the Congress and the BSP, in particular, were strongly against any softening of the punitive clauses of the Bill, but to little avail.