As the Winter Session of Parliament came to a close on Wednesday, Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari slammed Upper House members for repeated disruptions and called upon them to “introspect on this state of affairs” and desist from “approaches that demean the stature of Rajya Sabha”.
His statement came against the backdrop of the Upper House utilising only 46 per cent of its time, while losing a total of 47 hours due to adjournments.
“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.” He was referring to the fast-tracking of several bills after an understanding between the government and the Opposition.
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Ansari pointed out to members that the session belied the commitment to principles of the Constitution enunciated by members barely three weeks ago. He said: “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.”
The interruptions, 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.
He added that the interruptions also denied members the opportunity to seek accountability from the Executive through questions, Zero Hour issues, discussions and debates on issues of public interest and concern. “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, he said. “It reflects adversely on the parliamentary process and our commitment to it. There is an imperative need to dispel this impression,” Ansari added.
Ansari said various rulings and observations from the chair pertaining to requirement of decorum and dignity were ignored during the disruptions.
“Normal disciplinary procedures…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.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan was milder in her valedictory remarks. This could be traced to the fact that she was herself on backfoot after having been made to expunge her own remark and also because the Lok Sabha recorded 100.46 per cent of its time despite Opposition attempts to block proceedings. “I hope this coming year brings new hope 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 fewer disruptions,” she said.