Bills can be renamed in assembly, not in bedroom: Cong to Goa CM

Slamming Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant for first rushing through the controversial Bhumiputra Adhikarni Bill, 2021 and informally re-christening it as the Bhumi Adhikarni Bill, 2021 after facing popular criticism, the Congress on Wednesday said that nomenclature of legislations cannot be changed in the bedroom on whim.

Addressing a press conference in Panaji on Wednesday at the state Congress headquarters, party spokesperson Carlos Almeida also questioned Sawant’s legal knowledge while criticising the Chief Minister’s statement late on Tuesday, in which Sawant announced that the bill would be tabled once again in the state assembly with the rectification.

“Changing the name of a bill is a part of the bill itself. If you want to modify it, it has to be sent before the assembly. You cannot change it in the bedroom. He (CM) has changed it on Facebook too,” Ferreira said, referring to Sawant’s address on the social media site in which the Chief Minister referred to the bill as the Bhumi Adhikarni Bill, 2021.

“He has called it the Bhumi Adhikarni bill now. Why is he not referring to it as the Bhumiputra Adhikarni bill? Why is he embarrassed? He should not get embarrassed now. He should keep it as it is and say the title will be changed,” Ferreira, a former state attorney general, also said.

The BJP-led government has been facing flak over the proposed law, from the Opposition as well as civil society and tribal groups, who have not only questioned the contents of the bill, as well as its nomenclature, which his critics allege waters down the sanctity of the phrase ‘bhumiputra’.

The bill was passed amid an opposition walkout during the three-day monsoon session of the assembly.

Late on Tuesday, Sawant, in a video message said that the government was willing to drop the word ‘bhumiputra’ from the legislation and also assured that the bill would be tabled yet again in the assembly, while also inviting suggestions from the general public for incorporation into the legislation.

Ferreira said that inviting suggestions from the public after a law is passed in the state assembly was a “ridiculous” proposition.

“Don’t fool the people on law. Law is not your subject, don’t speak about it… There are two qualifications to be a bhumiputra. One is 30 years residence anywhere in Goa and in occupation of a dwelling unit on April 1, 2019. According to that definition, you cannot say that this law does not pertain to rented premises,” he said.

The Congress spokesperson also defended the decision of the opposition to walkout of the state assembly while the bill was being passed last week.

“Walkouts are part of a democratic system, (one can) protest by walking out, especially when you do not enjoy the numbers. The walking-out of all the united opposition is clearly a reflection of a protest to the passing of the bill,” Ferreira said.