The Parliament’s deadlock continued on Thursday, with both Houses adjourned over sloganeering and demands for a JPC probe into allegations against the Adani Group. The Lok Sabha approved the Union Budget envisaging an expenditure of around ₹45 lakh crore for the fiscal year starting April 1 without any discussion.
While the Rajya Sabha adjourned a minute after reconvening in the afternoon.
The Lower House of Parliament took up the Demands for Grants and Appropriation Bills after two adjournments as the ruling and Opposition MPs engaged in a matching duet over demands for an apology by Rahul Gandhi and the Adani issue. Most of the second leg of the Budget Session has been washed out due to the protest by both sides and it was one of the rare occasions when the Budget was passed without any discussion.
Soon after the Lok Sabha reassembled at 6 p.m. after two adjournments, Speaker Om Birla put the Opposition’s cut motion or amendments to the government spending plan to vote which was rejected by voice vote. This was followed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman moving the demands for grants for 2023-24 and relevant Appropriation Bills for discussion and voting. Mr. Birla applied guillotine and put demands for grants of all ministries for voting. The demands were passed as the Opposition MPs trooped into the Well of the House shouting slogans.
The entire exercise was over in 12 minutes completing two-third of the parliamentary approval for the Budget for 2023-24.
The Finance Bill 2023, which contains tax proposals that Ms. Sitharaman had moved while presenting the Budget on February 1, will now be taken up by the Lok Sabha possibly on Friday.
The day commenced with Speaker Om Birla paying homage to freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru on Martyr’s Day today. It was on this day in 1931 when they were hanged to death. Mr. Birla also read out the obituary references for former members of the house Satyabrata Mukherjee and Sohan Potai – who passed away recently.
Following this, the Opposition stormed into the well of the house. Notwithstanding the Chair’s requests, the Opposition continued their protests leading to the first untimely adjournment of the day.
The house reconvened at 2 p.m. with members laying down important papers and set to take up matters under Rule 377. The Opposition reiterated their demands. With the Treasury and Opposition unable to find a middle ground, the house witnessed its second timely adjournment to reconvene at 6 p.m.
Separately, in a written reply, Minister for Road Transport and Highways informed that more than 2.78 lakh registered Electric Vehicles have been registered in India between January and March 2023.
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri, in a written reply, informed that the Petroleum and Natural Gas Board (PNGRB) has authorised approx. 33,764 km length of Natural Gas Pipelines Network across the country with an aim to create a national gas grid and increase the availability of natural gas across the country. As of December-end, about 22,335 km pipeline is operational and 12,955 km of pipeline is under construction.
Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar addressed the House on the occasion of Shaheed Diwas (Martyrs’ Day). “Let us resolve to uphold and cherish the values for which these martyrs sacrificed their lives, let us keep Bharat best,” he said. The House observed a moment of silence as a mark of respect.
Papers, reports and statements were laid on the table of the Upper House, including the text of the Appropriation Bills pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir passed by the Lok Sabha on March 21. The Chair received, and rejected, 12 notices under rule 267 which sought to suspend the rules of the House to discuss aspects of the Adani issue.
Mr. Dhankhar informed the house that he had three rounds of meetings with the floor leaders. “Both sides have taken a rigid position. It would be best if you could talk to each other and reconcile,” he said. However, the Upper House remained in disorder. Leader of the House Piyush Goyal reiterated a demand for an apology from Rahul Gandhi, while the Opposition protested about the Adani issue, questioning whether fraud had taken place.
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned till 2 pm. Once it resumed, Deputy Chair Harivansh Narayan Singh adjourned the House for the day within a minute of resuming, due to continued clamour and protests.
In written replies today, Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh informed the House that the disbursement of fellowships to research scholars was delayed since host institutions did not submit claim bills and relevant certificates on time, besides being closed due to the pandemic. Programmes to promote research such as the Fund for Improvement of S&T Infrastructure (FIST) in University departments and Higher Educational Institutions and Promotion of University Research and Scientific Excellence (PURSE) have been put in place. The Minister also shared that the Sophisticated Analytical Instrument Facilities (SAIF) provided instruments to researchers without access to them for R&D activities.
Meanwhile, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said that no proposal is being considered to rework the Constitution to include “she/her” pronouns, as done in the recently introduced Digital Data Protection Bill, 2022. In his written reply, he said that drafting legislation in line with the government’s philosophy of empowering women is an evolving and innovative practice.
In a separate reply, he said that the government was examining the Supreme Court’s March 2 judgement on the appointment of chief election commissioner (CEC) and election commissioners and will take “appropriate action”. The Supreme Court had held that until Parliament makes a law in consonance with Article 342(2) of the Constitution, election commissioners will be appointed on the recommendations of a three-member committee comprising the prime minister, chief justice, and leader of the opposition (or the leader of the single largest opposition party if there is no LoP) in the Lok Sabha.
Proceedings in both Houses will resume at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 24.