A truncated sitting of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha’s monsoon session was held on Friday in view of the coronavirus pandemic with important business not being transacted in order to keep the proceedings short. SAD MLAs skipped it while several AAP MLAs, including Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema, were not allowed inside.
The House was adjourned for one hour after the obituary references and as soon as it re-assembled, Speaker Rana K P Singh read the recommendation of the Business Advisory Committee regarding suspension of business.
“This house resolves that due to the prevailing circumstances on account of the Covid-19, the current session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha has been called under sepcial circumstances, therefore, during this session only urgent and important government business be transacted and no other business whatsoever including questions, calling attention notices and any other business to be initiated by a private member be brought before or transacted in the house during the session and all relevant rules on the subject in the rules of procedure and conduct of business in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha do hereby stand suspended to that extent,”a resolution passed to this effect said.
Former Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal said that it is in the power of the Speaker to suspend any business. “It may have happened in Punjab earlier. It sometimes happens when we call an emergency session we suspend question hour, supplementary or even all rules,” Atwal said.
However, former Deputy Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha Bir Devinder Singh said the truncated session, doing away of important business and keeping away the Leader of Opposition is unprecedented.
“No, it has never happened earlier. It was a theatre of the absurd. A lot of traditions have been compromised in this session and the Speaker has acted very arbitrarily. Question hour cannot be done away with. It is clear that the session was held only to fulfil constitutional obligation. Had that not been so, the Congress would not have held it at all. It is all very sad,” he said.
The Leader of Opposition, Harpal Singh Cheema, Deputy Leader of the party in the House, Sarvjeet Kaur Manuke and Barnala MLA Meet Hayer, were not allowed to enter the House. Speaking inside the House, Sunam MLA Aman Arora said that the three were debarred from entering into the House on frivolous grounds.
“Cheema ji was stopped saying that his driver has not been tested, Manuke ji was told her husband has not been tested, Meet Hayer was told that his gunman had not been tested. However, when we received instructions from you (Speaker) regarding the session, all these things were not mentioned. We were only told about bringing a Covid negative report,” Arora said.
Only five AAP legislators, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, Baljinder Kaur, Aman Arora, Jai Kishan Rori and Baldev Singh, were allowed to attend the session. However, rebel MLAs, including suspended Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu, were present in the House.
Speaking outside the House, Cheema said that the state government had deployed heavy police force outside his house as well as the houses of other opposition leaders. “Capt Amarinder Singh is acting like a dictator.”
Cheema, Hayer and Manuke held a protest outside the Assembly, when they were not being allowed to attend the session. All three along with Aman Arora came wearing PPE suits.
Later, the AAP MLAs accompanied by state president of the party Bhagwant Mann sat on dharna outside the Punjab Bhawan where the media was reporting the session and condemned the action of the Speaker in keeping the MLAs out of the House.
SAD legislators stayed away from the session even as the two BJP MLAs attended the session. “Murder of democracy by Cong govt. Now police force posted outside SAD MLAs’ houses to prevent them from attending 1 hr assembly session. Such kind of oppression seen for first even though SAD announced it will act responsibly. We appeal to Governor, Pb to intervene & restore order,” SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia said in a tweet.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines