The government on Saturday faced a major embarrassment in the Rajya Sabha as Opposition members forced Law Minister Kapil Sibal to say “sorry’’ for failing to get a Constitution Amendment Bill cleared in the Lok Sabha after getting it “hastily’’ passed in the Upper House on Thursday. The Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die on Friday.
The government was charged with “misleading” the House in getting the Bill passed without having referred it to a parliament standing committee as sought by a majority of members.
The Bill, which paves the way for the constitution of a Judicial Appointments Commission to recommend appointment of judges in higher courts, could not be taken up in the Lok Sabha due to a “technical mistake” in the title that “could not be rectified in time”.
Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the government was keen to take up the Bill but was prevented from doing so in the Lok Sabha due to a “patent and technical error.” This, however, did not pacify members and led to an adjournment of the House. On reassembling, the House continued to witness similar scenes and order was restored only after Mr. Sibal said he was “sorry” and “regretted’’ that the Bill could not be passed in the Lok Sabha despite his best efforts.
The House saw two adjournments in the pre-lunch session as BJP members, led by Ravi Shankar Prasad, demanded that Mr. Sibal “apologise” as “deep anguish” was not enough. As the issue was raised, N.K. Singh (Janata Dal–United), Naresh Agarwal (Samajwadi Party), Thaawar Chand Gehlot (BJP) and V. Maitreyan (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) got up and raised a protest.
Mr. Prasad charged the government with taking the House for a ride and sought an apology. Communist Party of India (Marxist) members P. Rajeeve, Prasanta Chatterjee and T.K. Rangarajan too questioned the government’s intentions. Najma Heptulla (BJP) wanted to know who was behind the mistake.
Mr. Sibal said there was “a patent error” in the title of the Bill that was spotted by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, corrected and transmitted to the Lok Sabha. When introduced, it was titled the Constitution [120th] Amendment Bill, but when passed it should have read as the Constitution [99th] Amendment Bill.