The Centre’s decision to impose President’s Rule in Uttarakhand disrupted the proceedings of Rajya Sabha on the second day as well, with the Congress asking Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to withdraw his remarks on the conduct of Uttarakhand Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal and apologise.
The Congress forced repeated adjournments of the Upper House, the final one about 15 minutes after 3 pm, and little legislative business was conducted.
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The opposition party, which has been protesting against the imposition of President’s Rule in the state, was peeved at the rejection of their demand for a discussion on the use of Article 356 in Uttarakhand, and at Jaitley’s statement that Kunjwal had declared a defeated appropriation Bill as passed.
Congress MPs said Jaitley was questioning the conduct of the Speaker, a Constitutional functionary, which cannot be challenged even in a court of law.
“…the rule book specifically forbids any reference or any expression about the conduct of proceedings in a state legislature. What has been said about the Speaker of Uttarakhand Assembly is deplorable… He (Jaitley) must be made to withdraw it,” Deputy Leader of Opposition Anand Sharma said after the House assembled in the afternoon.
In the morning, Jaitley said, “As far as Article 356 and its use in Uttarakhand is concerned, we, on behalf of the government, have also a lot to say. It has never happened in 68 years of independence that Presiding Officers convert majorities into minorities and vice versa. This is the real breakdown of the Constitution of India. 35 out of 67 members give in writing that we have voted against a Bill and the Presiding Officer says, the minority is a majority, the majority is a minority; that is the breakdown of the Constitutional machinery.”
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said Jaitley himself had, on numerous occasions, maintained that the presiding officers’ decisions must never be questioned. “Recently, when it was our opinion that a particular Bill should not be classified as money Bill, that it must be treated as a normal Bill, the Leader of the House (Jaitley) had said that the decision of the Speaker (of Lok Sabha) must be taken as final, and cannot be challenged. We had to agree with that. But in a similar manner the decisions of the Speakers or Chairpersons of the Assemblies in states must also be treated as final. There cannot be double standards in this,” Azad said.
“This disruption can be ended in one second, if Mr Jaitley, and I request him, gets up and says that he has committed a mistake and he should not have said it. This matter will end here,” Azad said.
Jaitley said he was not questioning Kunjwal’s ruling, but reiterated that there was a constitutional breakdown because of the decisions taken by him.
“Never before has this happened in this country that a defeated Bill has been declared to be passed in the Assembly. That is a ground for breakdown of constitutional machinery,” Jaitley said.
His comments came after Anand Sharma and Pramod Tiwari gave notices for suspension of rules to discuss and pass a resolution on the developments in Uttarakhand.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Jaitley reiterated the government’s stand that a discussion on the issue would take place when the proclamation for President’s Rule is placed before the House. “There is no procedure of having pre-proclamation discussion,” Jaitley said.