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Govt withdraws controversial ordinance Last Updated : 02 Oct 2013 11:20:19 PM IST Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi at a function to pay tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri on the occasion of their birth anniversaries at Parliament in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday night decided to withdraw the controversial ordinance on convicted lawmakers.
Forced by Rahul Gandhi's open trashing of the government, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday night decided to withdraw the controversial ordinance on convicted lawmakers as well as a related bill in the face of mounting public opinion against the measure.
In a business-like 20-minute meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Cabinet overturned its earlier decision of September 24 to provide immunity to convicted lawmakers from immediate disqualification.
The reversal by the Cabinet is seen as a rare instance of the government being forced to take back a measure that was cleared after much deliberations in the ruling party and the Council of Ministers after resistance from within.
The decision came on a day of hectic consultations at the highest levels in the Congress party, allies and the government on how to bring a closure to the raging controversy after Rahul's denunciation of the ordinance as "complete nonsense" that deserved to be "torn and thrown away".
"The Union Cabinet at its meeting today unanimously decided that both the ordinance with regards to certain sections of the Representation of the People Act as well as the Bill would be withdrawn", Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told reporters.
He claimed that the decision was reversed as the government was sensitive to public opinion and was not authoritarian in nature.
At the meeting, NCP leader Sharad Pawar is understood to have criticised the events leading to the reversal of the Cabinet decision, an apparent reference Rahul's public outburst.
He felt that institutions were being undermined when the decision on overturning the July 10 Supreme Court order which withdrew the immunity for convicted lawmakers.
Another ally, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was also critical of the way Rahul condemned the government in public, undermining not just the Prime Minister, but the whole Cabinet.
The Cabinet decision comes six days after Rahul pubicly denounced the ordinance cleared by the Cabinet on September 24 after approved by the Congress Core Group headed by party President Sonia Gandhi.
Rahul had said the government was "wrong", a criticism that was latched on to by BJP and other opposition parties which demanded resignation by the Prime Minister saying his authority had been undermined.
Govt overturns decision, withdraws controversial ordinance:
Rahul, whose action last week was condemned by critics as raising questions over the authority of the Prime Minister, met Singh this morning and explained the reasons why he raised the issue and the way it was done.
This was followed by a meeting of the Congress Core Group that includes Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi where they decided to give an unceremonious burial to the Ordinance and the Bill.
It was communicated to President Pranab Mukherjee, who had reservations in signing the ordinance and had raised questions with three ministers. Mukherjee left on a two-nation tour shortly later.
Then it was only a matter of formality when the Prime Minister spoke to leaders of allied parties like Pawar, Abdullah and Ajit Singh (RLD), informing them about the intent to withdraw the ordinance.
The ordinance sought to provide immunity to MPs and MLAs from immediate disqualification upon conviction, a protection that was done away with by the Supreme Court on July 10. The Court had struck down a provision in the electoral law that allowed convicted MPs and MLAs to continue in their posts if they appeal against the judgement within three months and the order was stayed.
"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.
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