New law likely to keep Cong place on Jallianwala Bagh trust

Reversing a move by the NDA government to change the composition of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, the Union Cabinet is set to clear a fresh legislation to ensure that the Congress president will always remain a member of the prestigious trust.

The bill, likely to be introduced in the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament, is aimed at underlining that the Congress is not just any other political outfit but retains a ''unique'' stature in view of the signal role it played during India's freedom struggle, sources said.

On April 23, 2003 the NDA government introduced the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2003 in Lok Sabha seeking to amend the original act passed in 1951.

As per the provisions of the 1951 Act, the trustees were Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the president of the Indian National Congress, the governor of Punjab, the chief minister of Punjab and three people nominated by the central government. The first three were declared trustees for life.

The 'statement of objects and reasons' of the 2003 bill noted that ''with a view to filling up the vacancies caused on account of the passing away of the life Trustees, it has become necessary to amend the said Act..''

Accordingly, the bill sought to amend Section 4(1) of the Act and named the following as the trustees: Prime Minister, union minister of culture, union minister of home, governor of Punjab, chief minister of Punjab, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, and three eminent people to be nominated by the central government.

A significant omission, leading to protests from Congress MPs, was the president of the Indian National Congress.

The bill was thereafter sent to the standing committee on transport, tourism and culture. The report of the standing committee, headed by CPI(M) MP Nilotpal Basu, was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on December 3, 2003. With the NDA government deciding to go in for early elections in 2004, the bill could not be passed during their term in office.

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