The stormy winter session of Parliament ended on Wednesday, leaving the crucial economic reform bill GST pending and evoking some strong comments by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari who asked MPs to introspect and desist from “demeaning the stature” of the House.
The session, which began on November 26, 2015, had 20 sittings in all and out of this, the Rajya Sabha lost 47 hours due to disruptions caused almost every day by the Congress which raised one issue after another.
The Lok Sabha performed a little better as it passed 13 bills and saw discussions over various issues like price rise, flood and drought situation, despite repeated uproar created by the opposition Congress over various issues.
The Rajya Sabha, which saw passage of nine bills, could not, however, clear the pending GST bill which provides for overhauling the direct tax structure of the country as Congress steadfastly maintained its opposition to it.
But the parties, except the Left, came together in the Upper House on Tuesday to pass t >he Juvenile Justice Bill under which the age of trying a juvenile as an adult in heinous crimes like rape was brought down from 18 years to 16 years.
The 20-day session of the Lok Sabha was considerably much productive as compared to the monsoon session which was a virtual washout due to the ruckus caused by the Opposition which had been pressing for ouster of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over various allegations.
In the session which concluded on Wednesday, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan preferred to carry on with the listed business even as protesting Congress members stormed the Well and shouted slogans, many times walking out of the House for the day.
She twice threatened to take action against the Congress members who were disrupting the House by asking officials to note down their names.
In the last session, she had suspended as many as 25 of the 44 Congress members for their unrelenting disruptions.
This session saw the rare action of the Speaker expunging her own controversial “vested interests” remarks made about Congress members on Tuesday.
In her valedictory remarks, Ms. Mahajan said, “I hope this coming year brings new hope and new energy in our lives and we reflect with resolve that in the New Year we will take conscious decision while using all Parliamentary instruments to forcefully register our dissent and disagreement, if any, and will attempt to ensure less disruptions.”
The House passed 13 bills, including the Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Bill and the National Waterways Bill.
Ansari laments disruptions in RS
Mr. Ansari lamented that the record of this session, which lost over 47 hours due to disruptions, belied the commitment to the principles of the Constitution “in good measure”.
He appealed to the members “to introspect on this state of affairs (and) desist from approaches and practices that demean the stature of the Rajya Sabha“.
“The 237th Session of the Rajya Sabha, that last week seemed singularly unproductive in terms of legislative work, comes to an end this afternoon after having redeemed itself somewhat in the past three days,” said Mr. Ansari in his valedictory remarks before the House was adjourned sine die.
He recalled that three weeks back on December 1, the Rajya Sabha had solemnly committed itself to the principles and ideals of the Constitution.
“A functioning legislature is an essential concomitant of these principles; disruptions amount to their negation. The record of this session belies this commitment in good measure,” he said.
The interruptions in the functioning of the House, he said sought to be “justified by specious logic by different sections of the House at different times to suit their tactics of the moment”, continue to result in loss of working time and neglect of listed business.
In 20 sittings from November 26 till Wednesday, nine Bills, including the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, were passed.
Mr. Ansari said interruptions denied members the opportunity to seek accountability of the executive through questions, ’Zero Hour’ issues, discussions and debates on issues of public interest and concern. The disruptions also reduced or eliminated opportunity to scrutinise legislative proposals.
“This state of affairs is at times attributed by sections of opinion to lack of disciplinary control over the proceedings,” he said.
In a strong message, Mr. Ansari said “vehemence in language or behaviour resulting in obstruction of proceedings, apart from interruption and neglect of listed agenda,” also resulted in violation of privileges of individual Members themselves.
“It reflects adversely on the parliamentary process and our commitment to it. There is an imperative need to dispel this impression,” the Chairman said.
“Forgotten” in the process are the limitations of the rules of procedure, the operative assumptions on which they were framed and the various Rulings and Observations from the Chair pertaining to the requirement of decorum and dignity.
Mr. Ansari said the Chair appreciated the view that a political assembly works on its perception of public impulses.
“Normal disciplinary procedures, therefore, have their limitations. The counterpart of this approach is self-discipline and a commitment to fulfil the objectives and purposes of a legislative body,” he said.
The Session had 20 sittings and the House sat for over 60 hours. During the Session, over 47 hours were lost on various issues like Kumari Selja’s remark about being asked about her caste at a temple in Gujarat, alleged anti-Dalit remarks of Union Minister V.K. Singh and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s reported comments on Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The other issues included court summons to top Congress functionaries in the National Herald case, opposition to the multi-purpose Polavaram irrigation project, atrocities on dalits in Punjab, role of Governor of Arunachal Pradesh and alleged irregularities in the functioning of DDCA and demand for resignation of Minister of Finance.
During the session, two Government Bills were withdrawn and one Bill introduced.
The House passed or returned nine Bills, including the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, the Appropriation Bills, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill.
The other Bills passed were the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, the Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, the Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill.
The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013 was referred to the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2015, referred to a Joint Committee of both the Houses.
There were short-duration discussions on damage caused due to rain and floods in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, situation in Nepal and the state of Indo-Nepal relations and the flood and drought situation.
A highlight of the session was the special sitting for the first two days to commemorate the >125th birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar .