Government embarrassed, SC/ST bill sent to parliamentary committee

Government embarrassed, SC/ST bill sent to parliamentary committee

In a major embarrassment to the government, a bill for giving the Election Commission the right to readjust demarcation of SC/ST constituencies was sent to a parliamentary standing committee without even being introduced in parliament.

The Readjustment of Representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Bill, 2013, gives special powers to the poll panel on delimitation of SC/ST constituencies.

An ordinance for this had been passed by the government following a Supreme Court order.

As Law Minister Ashwini Kumar tried to introduce the bill in the Rajya Sabha, members from opposition and some supporting parties objected and said the government was skipping proper legislative process by pushing the bill for passage.

The members demanded that the bill be sent to a parliamentary standing committee.
The minister, however, said the ordinance would lapse if the bill's passage was delayed.

"It was essential to bring this ordinance to give effect to a Supreme Court order. There has been an addition to the list of Scheduled Tribes, but there has been no revision in demarcation of the constituencies and assembly areas to give proper representation," Ashwini Kumar said.

"With this act, government gives the Election Commission the power to open delimitation," he said.

Responding to this, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said the Supreme Court case was only in relation to STs, questioning why the government included SCs in the bill.

Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley questioned why government was rushing with the legislation when the general elections were a year away.

"The Supreme court never told you to bypass the legislative process and pass the bill, nor did the Supreme Court tell the government what the contents of the bill should be," Jaitley said.

As the members continued to press, the government agreed to send the bill to a standing committee with a fixed time frame.

"I would convey it to the chairman (M. Hamid Ansari) to refer the bill to a standing committee," Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien said.