Opposition Congress, supported by TMC and JD(U), today forced four adjournments of the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha over what it called as “biggest scam of this century” in the printing of two different kinds of 500 and 1000 rupee notes. Slogan-shouting Congress members trooped into the well even as Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the opposition party has been raising “frivolous” issues without giving notices to stall Zero Hour proceedings.
They were supported by Sharad Yadav (JD-U) who displayed copies of some currency notes. Some members including Derek O’Brien (TMC) displayed the new 500 rupee notes issued after demonetisation to show the different sizes they were bring printed. He first offered to submit the notes to Jaitley for scrutiny and then walked up to him to explain to him the difference. He, however, did not leave the notes with the Finance Minister. Jaitley said there is no provision in the rules that anyone could “flash any paper and say it is point of order.”
“There is a misuse of zero hour which is going on,” he said, adding that the Congress first raised the issue of provision for None-Of-The-Above (NOTA) in the ballot for Rajya Sabha poll but then discovered that the provision had been made during their rule. “You have been raising frivolous issues in the Zero Hour without giving notice” with a view to disrupt and not get replies, he said, but did not reply to the opposition contentions on different sized notes.
Raising the issue through a point of order, Kapil Sibal (Cong) said different sizes of the new high denomination currency was being printed – “one for the ruling party (members) and one for the others”. “We have today discovered the reason why the government did demonetisation (of old 500 and 1000 rupee notes in November last year),” he said. Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad (Cong) said “this is the biggest scam of this century.”
As Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi countered, Azad said two types of notes are being printed. “The government has no right to remain in office for even five minutes,” he said. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said even if there are two types of notes, it cannot be a point of order. “You raise the issue in a different form.” “It is a serious issue,” O’Brien said as he displayed two 500 rupee notes that he said were different in size and design.
Prasad asked opposition members to explain where they got the currency notes from. Sharad Yadav (JD-U) said no country in the world has two notes of different sizes. “One is bigger, one is smaller,” he said. “I can give signed (copies of the notes).” Kurien said he is not an expert to examine the notes. “You give separate notice.”
“I will give them to Finance Minister,” O’Brien said. Kurien said “give it to the Finance Minister, I have no objection.” Anand Sharma (Cong) said the credibility of the currency in circulation has been challenged. Kurien however said the issue cannot be taken up through a point of order and the members have to give separate notice. Pramod Tiwari (Cong) said notice has been given, to which Kurien said the Chairman will examine them.
As the din continued, Kurien adjourned the proceedings for 15 minutes. After the adjournment, as Kurien asked the members again to give notice on the issue, O’Brien said he has given notice for discussion on demonetisation for the past three weeks, but the government has not yet listed the matter. As the din continued, Kurien adjourned the House till noon.
Similar noisy scenes were witnessed when the Question Hour was taken up by Chairman Hamid Ansari, who adjourned the proceedings for another 15 minutes. When the House assembled again, the opposition members continued slogan-shouting, forcing Ansari to adjourn the House till one PM.