The BJP-led government and the Congress sparred over the TRAI (Amendment) Bill which was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday, with Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu saying that Congress was countering it only for the sake of opposition and former minister Shashi Tharoor maintaining there were issues of principle involved.
“The Congress party is opposing for the sake of opposing,” Naidu said, adding that the Prime Minister has the right to appoint his Principal Secretary.
“As said by the Minister for Telecommunications, this is aimed at bringing parity with regard to different regulatory authorities. There is nothing unusual about it. There was a sort of a mistake or shortcoming earlier that has been rectified,” he told reporters outside the Parliament.
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The TRAI (Amendment Bill) aims to remove legal hurdles in the appointment of former TRAI chief Nripendra Misra as principal secretary to the Prime Minister.
Speaking to reporters, Naidu said the Prime Minister was chosen by an overwhelming majority of the people of India and has got every right to choose an officer of his choice.
“And that officer has got impeccable character. Nobody has questioned his integrity, honesty and commitment and calibre also. So naturally, the house has approved it,” he said. He justified taking the ordinance route to appoint Misra as the Principal Secretary saying the Prime Minister is not an individual but an institution and there was need to have his officer from day one.
Naidu further said that he was surprised at Congress’ objections over the ordinance claiming that “it is the Congress which has used, misused the ordinance route, umpteen number of times”.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said his party was raising issues of principle
“This is not about him (Misra), it is not about the Prime Minister. What it is about is two issues of principle. The first is can you actually change a law to suit one person.
What are you signaling about our democracy? What are you saying that ultimately if a law stands in the way of an individual, in this case, the Prime Minister, the individual’s wishes will take precedence over the considered law of the land,” he said.
Tharoor said there is another principle of concern about the future chairman of TRAI “because once the law is changed they will once again be susceptible to the influence of the government on matters involving such sensitive issues plus spectrum allocation and licensing, we have seen how controversial and how valuable these are.”
He said that the government does have a constitutional right to do and added that it is also true that other regulators do not have this requirement.
“There is a case for standardising the requirement. But we should standardise to a higher standard and not to a lower standard. In any case there is no standard. By amending this bill, we are not bringing it on par with other bills. Each bill, each regulatory authority has its own stipulations,” he said.
Tharoor said that his party was not speaking against any individual but only about principle.
Congress and some other parties have walked out as they wanted to make a point of principle, which has been recorded in the house, he said.
He said that the government has a majority in the House and it was expected that the Bill would be passed in Lok Sabha. Asked about TMC’s stance on the issue, he said that these questions should be put that party.