March 2004 News

'Secret Deal' Kills Bill

11 March 2004
The Asian Age

Srinagar: The controversial Jammu and Kashmir Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Bill, 2004, which seeks to rescind the permanent resident status of women who marry outside the state, took a dramatic turn on Thursday night when the J&K Legislative Council, the Upper House of the state legislature, was adjourned sine die by the Chairman without putting it to vote. The ruling triggered protests by the ruling People's Democratic Party and Opposition National Conference alike, while the Congress was somewhat circumspect. It, however, reiterated the demand that the bill should be referred to a select committee of the House and a thorough debate initiated within and outside to reach a consensus. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said her party wanted the bill to be treated as a 'simple piece of legislation,' meaning that it could be passed with a simple majority in the 30-member Legislative Council. 'The Chairman belongs to the National Conference, which now owes an explanation to the people on why he did not put the bill to vote and instead adjourned the House sine die even after a six-and-a-half-hour debate,' she said. The NC was furious with Chairman Abdur Rashid Dar's decision. 'He is a chor (thief). He has received a bribe of Rs 5 crores,' alleged NC leader and former works minister Ali Muhammad Sagar. He claimed that Mr Dar was recently in Delhi where he held a secret meeting with Congress leaders Ambika Soni and Makhan Lal Fotedar. The BJP described the bill as a 'retrograde step' and pledged to fight it on the streets. As the Chairman adjourned the House, the debate on the pros and cons of the bill was inconclusive. If the governor prorogues the House, the bill would virtually be dumped till the next session, which is unlikely until autumn this year, say Kashmir watchers. The CPI(M), which was equally upset, reiterated that a special session of the legislature be convened to discuss the bill. Soon after law and parliamentary affairs minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig tabled the Jammu and Kashmir Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Bill, 2004, on Thursday afternoon, the members began delivering fiery speeches in favour, and in opposition, to the bill. Though the main Opposition NC supported the bill, most of its members seized the opportunity to castigate the ruling PDP leadership, including chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, for 'having a history of indulging in political tricks and gimmickry both inside and outside the legislature.' They also claimed that the PDP had a habit of succumbing to pressure to stay in power. The NC had issued a whip to its legislators to ensure their presence in the House on Thursday.


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