The Lok Sabha on Monday gave its approval to a bill that removes legal hurdles in the appointment of former TRAI chief Nripendra Misra as Principal Secretary to the PM amid a walkout by Congress, RJD, CPI(M), RSP and AAP and a volte-face by Trinamool Congress to support it.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, which lifts a bar on a former TRAI Chairman from taking up a government job, was passed after a debate during which the government came under sharp attack for the measure.
Replying to the debate, Minister for Law and Telecom Ravi Shankar Prasad said the focus of the amendment was to remove "a palpable anomaly" as the existing law provided that a former TRAI Chairman could take up private job two years after retirement but not a government job.
Other regulatory bodies like Competition Commission, Airports Economic Regulatory Authority and SEBI do not have such provision, he said, adding the government decided to amend the law to bring parity.
The bill was later passed by a voice vote after walkout by Congress, RJD, AAP, RSP and CPI-M.
Congress member Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and TMC member Saugata Roy moved a 'statutory resolution' deploring the move to amend the TRAI Act but it was defeated by the House.
Roy was not present in the House when it was taken up. However, leader of TMC in the House Sudip Bandhyopadhyay, supported the amendment, marking a volte face by the party.
The discussion saw those opposing the bill to replace an ordinance walking out of the House but maintaining that they are not casting any doubt on the integrity and honesty of the person concerned, but were against the flouting of democratic norms and procedures.
The bill replaces an ordinance issued on 28th May to amend a clause in the TRAI Act by which Misra could not have been appointed to any government post after retirement.
Misra, a 1967-batch retired IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre who retired in 2009, joined the PMO the same day the ordinance was promulgated and the bill was being brought to give his appointment the requisite legal backing.
The Bill will come up in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday where ruling NDA does not have enough numbers. However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu expressed confidence that it will sail through there also.
Bandopadhyay, whose party had opposed the bill last week, supported the measure saying the Prime Minister had "the right to appoint any officer who he feels fit...in the greater interest of better governance."
His party colleague, Saugata Roy, had last week opposed the bill saying it was being brought "merely to give a government job to a superannuated TRAI Chairman, thereby taking away the independence of TRAI."
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had apparently reached out to various opposition parties for their support.
AIADMK leader M Thambidurai also supported the measure, prompting Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge to say, "I don't know what compulsions they had" for taking such a stand.
Reacting to this, Thambidurai immediately stood up to say that the Prime Minister had "made a choice and there is no need to oppose it."