The Lok Sabha Monday passed a bill to amend the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, paving the way for appointment of former panel chairman Nripendra Misra as principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, amid a walkout by the Congress, CPI-M, RJD and AAP members.
However, the Trinamool Congress, which had earlier opposed the bill, supported it on the floor of the house.
The bill replaces an ordinance brought by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, soon after it came to power, to amend the act which prohibited the TRAI chairman and members from taking up any other job in the central or state governments after demitting office.
A retired 1967 batch IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, Misra’s appointment as principal secretary will be co-terminus with the term of the prime minister or till further orders, according to an order issued by the ministry of personnel.
Before the bill was taken up for discussion, Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury moved a statutory resolution seeking disapproval of the house on the bill, but it was defeated.
Moving the resolution, Chowdhury said: “We have no personal agenda in this. But the fact is that the government is not letting the legislature prevail. This is worrisome.”
The Lok Sabha schedule had Trinamool MP Saugata Roy’s name listed alongside Chowdhury’s for moving the statutory resolution. However, Roy was absent when the resolution was moved.
Later participating in the discussion, Trinamool member Sudip Bandopadhyay said: “We support the bill. The prime minister can choose any officer whom he thinks fit.”
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, on its part, defended the bill arguing that the government was just correcting an anomaly in the TRAI Act.
BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: “Why is this being opposed? There are other bodies like the Competition Commission of India and the Pension Regulatory Authority whose members can join the government after two years.”
“The government has a right to correct this anomaly and this is the basic intent,” he said, adding: “If the prime minister feels that certain person needs to work with him, then this anomaly needs to be corrected.”
Replying to the debate, Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “The anomaly was that a TRAI chairman can work under any commercial company but not the government. This was a palpable anomaly.”
He asserted: “This is an attempt to bring parity. No one questioned the integrity of the officer in question.”
However, Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress in the house, alleged that there was something more to this than meets the eye.
“Why did you want only a particular person,” he asked.
The Congress MPs, at this point, staged a walkout and were joined by the members of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), RJD and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The house then passed the bill by a voice vote.