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I would say even the quorum requirements were suspect: Abhishek Singhvi

Abhishek Singhvi. File Photo.  

The no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition parties was summarily rejected by Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu. What is the rule position on the issue?

With the greatest of the respect to the Chairman Mr. Naidu, I disagree with the rejection. All parties sat together and I drafted it within the House yesterday [Sunday]. The rejection is wrong both in terms of Article 90 of the Constitution and in terms of Parliamentary precedent and practice. With the highest respect and regard for the Chairman I will still say that the 14-day notice is not required for filing a petition — it may be required after moving it or for deciding it. That is clear from the text of the rule itself. Certainly notice periods and other procedural requirements come in, but to reject it at the threshold would be, again with the greatest respect, not in conformity with Parliamentary traditions and practice.

What are the options available with the Opposition now?

Today [Monday], I drafted the representation to the President and we attached the no-confidence motion to it. First of all, and I say this with the highest respect for the Deputy Chairperson also, but this is not about the personalities, it is about the wider issues.

In my visible presence, innumerable members of the Rajya Sabha sitting in both chambers (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) were asking for divisions. There was no occasion to deny voting by division. Secondly, heavens would certainly not have fallen if the division was held on September 21 instead of closing on Sunday. Strangely, Sunday was treated as the last day of the current parliamentary session.

Thirdly, significant amendments, motions and statutory resolutions had been moved; how could a Bill be deemed to have been passed without even considering them. Fourthly, no member of the Rajya Sabha sitting in the Lok Sabha chamber, including myself, could participate. The Chair made no effort to look at us, to call us or involve us. More than half the members were sitting in the Lok Sabha chamber. Therefore, I would say that even the quorum requirements were not met.

Fifthly, Article 111, apart from Article 90, and the practice and procedure of Parliament, enable us to appeal to the President requesting him not to sign these bills. Sixthly, even if passed, I have no doubt that among many other reasons, it violates federalism, since almost the entire subject matter of the two Bills falls within four specific entries of the State list and therefore exclusive legislative competence rests in the State.

Seventhly, in such moments Democracy requires humility, participation and attempts to listen, absorb and then decide. The numbers alone do not matter. Politics of arrogance has no place. Lastly, what happened in the House on Sunday has one silver lining. It shows beyond doubt that the government was sure that it did not have the numbers to pass the Bills, which is why such unsavoury tactics were adopted.

If the President were to ignore your plea, would the parties in question also consider legal options?

The courts come into the picture once the Bills become an Act. Certainly all options are open. I believe it strikes at the heart of federalism, which has been held repeatedly to be part of the basic structure from Keshavanada Bharati to Bommai judgments. Therefore, you have not heard the end of the story yet.

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