The bill replaces an ordinance brought by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, to amend the act which prohibited its (TRAI) chairman and members from taking up any other job in the central or state governments after demitting office.

Misra is a 1967-batch retired IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre and his 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.

Congress stages walkout

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, which 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 ordinance was conceptualized and passed at a lightning speed smacking of a hidden agenda," he said.
    
Congress opposed the bill and said that it is a ‘person-specific ordinance’.
    
"The first major achievement of the BJP government is that it started with bringing in a person-specific ordinance. They found only one person in one billion plus" to be the Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi had said on Friday.

Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress group 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 staged a walkout and were joined by the members of the CPI-M and the AAP.

TMC throws surprise, backs bill

In a surprise turnaround, Trinamool Congress, which had opposed the bill earlier, supported it on the floor of the house.

In fact, the Lok Sabha schedule had Trinamool MP Saugata Roy's name listed alongside Chowdhury's for moving the statutory resolution.

However, Roy was conspicuous by his absence when the resolution was moved.

Later participating in the discussion, TMC member Sudip Bandopadhyay said, "We support the bill. The Prime Minister can choose any officer whom he thinks fit."

The party had earlier objected to introduction of the bill, saying it violates the rules of procedures and takes away independence of TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India).
    
On Friday, TMC leader Saugata Roy had said according to the TMC, the measure was being brought "merely to give a government job to a superannuated TRAI Chairman, thereby taking away the independence of TRAI."

BSP supports TRAI Amendment Bill

    
BSP supremo Mayawati said that her party will not oppose the appointment of Nripendra Mishra as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and support the TRAI Amendment Bill in Parliament.
     
"Centre has the right to choose its officers and decide how they want to run the government," she said.
 
"We have no objection to Mishra's appointment as he is a good officer. Government at the state or Centre can choose its officer," she further said.
     
BJD's Jay Panda backs TRAI amendment bill

    
BJD MP Baijayant 'Jay' Panda also supported the Bill to amend TRAI Act, while his party's stand on the issue is not clear yet. Panda said the Prime Minister should have the option to have people of his choice in his office and suggested that the opposition should take up "bigger issues" with the government.
    
"I don't think there is any problem in it. Prime Minister should have the option to have people of his choice in his office. And it would only bring TRAI in line with other regulatory agencies," he said.
    
"Finally... the whole idea is that (there are) bigger issues that we need to take up with the government," he added.

AAP opposes bill
    

The Aam Aadmi Party opposed the TRAI amendment bill, saying such a move would undermine the role of regulators.
    
"The law cannot be changed for making an otherwise ineligible individual to take up a particular post, by first abusing the emergency powers of the government by bringing an ordinance, and then wasting the time of Parliament to suit the whims and fancies of an individual considered dear to the ruling establishment. It is shocking that the NDA government has overturned an amendment in the TRAI Act, which its own Atal Behari Vajpayee government had brought 14 years back," AAP said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Will not oppose TRAI amendment bill: Pawar

    
NCP chief Sharad Pawar backed the Bill to amend TRAI Act, saying, "We are not opposing the bill. There is no need to take an extreme step."

The NCP president cited the example of TKA Nair, an IAS officer of Punjab cadre, who after retiring from service became principal secretary to Manmohan Singh when he was the Prime Minister.
    
BJP defends govt’s move

The ruling BJP, 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."

TRAI amendment bill controversy


The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill is to replace an ordinance issued on May 28 to change a clause in the TRAI Act which would have prevented Misra from taking up the government post after retirement.

Ignoring objections by political parties, government last week introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha to replace an ordinance issued on May 28 to change a clause in the TRAI Act which would have prevented Misra from taking up the government post after retirement.
        
Before the Ordinance was promulgated, the TRAI Act prohibited its chairman and members from taking up any other job in central or state governments after demitting office.

"The chairperson or any other member ceasing to hold office as such, shall (a) be ineligible for further employment under the Central government or any state government or (b) not accept any commercial employment for a period of two years from the date he ceases to hold such office," says the TRAI Act of 1997 available on the law ministry website.
 
To circumvent this section, the Modi government promulgated an ordinance amending this section.  The amended section now reads as: "The chairperson and the whole-time members shall not, for a period of two years from the date on which they cease to hold office as such, except with the previous approval of the Central government, accept "(a) any employment either under the Central Government or under any state government; or "(b) any appointment in any company in the business of telecommunication service."

JPN/Agencies

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