Updated: August 18, 2021 8:57:10 am
Parliament’s Monsoon Session ended on a stormy note on Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule. From the time the Session began on July 19, Opposition parties had disrupted both Houses over the government’s unwillingness to allow discussion on the Pegasus snooping scandal, the farmers’ protests, and the rise in prices, especially of auto fuels.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu expressed anguish over the disruptions. Birla said, “I share the people’s pain that their issues could not be discussed in the House.” Naidu broke down while speaking about the conduct of MPs on Tuesday, and said he had spent a sleepless night.
“The Table area where the officers and the reporters of the House, the Secretary General and the Presiding Officer are seated, is considered as the holy sanctum sanctorum of the House. A certain degree of sacredness is attached to this place… While some Members sat on the Table, some others climbed on the Table of the House, perhaps to be more visible with such acts of sacrilege. I have no words to convey my anguish and to condemn such acts,” Naidu said.
According to PRS Legislative Research data, the Monsoon Session was the third least productive Lok Sabha session of the last two decades, with a productivity of just 21 per cent. Rajya Sabha logged a productivity of 28 per cent, its eighth least productive Session since 1999.
Most disrupted Sessions
* According to PRS Legislative Research records since 1999, the worst Session in terms of productivity for both Houses was the Winter Session of 2010.
The BJP was in Opposition then, and the party allowed no business to be transacted, demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum licence allocation in the wake of the CAG’s report.
The productivity of Rajya Sabha in that Session plunged to a mere 2 per cent; Lok Sabha did marginally better at 6 per cent, according to PRS data.
* For Lok Sabha, the Winter Sessions of 2013 and 2016 were the second worst-hit in terms of productivity.
In 2013, the last Session of the 15th Lok Sabha was marred by disruptions over the creation of a separate Telangana state, with MPs favouring and opposing the division of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh holding the Houses to ransom.
In 2016, the disruptions were over the demonetisation of high-value currency notes announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November. The productivity of Lok Sabha was a mere 15 per cent both in 2013 and 2016.
* The Budget Session of 2018 witnessed a productivity of 21 per cent in Lok Sabha. The second part of the Session was completely paralysed.
Earlier, in the Monsoon Session of 2012, Lok Sabha had seen a similar productivity of 21 per cent. The disruptions in 2012 were over the allocation of coal blocks.
* For Rajya Sabha, the Budget Session of 2019 — the last of the 16th Lok Sabha — was the second worst in terms of productivity: 7 per cent. The 13-day Session was washed out as Opposition parties stalled proceedings daily over issues ranging from the Rafale fighter jet deal to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
* The third worst session for Rajya Sabha productivity was the Monsoon Session of 2015 — 9 per cent, as the Vyapam scam and the Lalit Modi controversy turned the House turbulent. Lok Sabha too was disrupted, but it managed to clock a productivity of 48 per cent. In terms of numbers, the Opposition then had the upper hand in Rajya Sabha.
* The Upper House had seen massive disruptions during the first Session of the 14th Lok Sabha in 2004 (17 per cent), the Winter Session of 2016 (18 per cent), the Winter Session of 2013 (25 per cent), the Budget Session of 2018 (27 per cent) and the Monsoon Session of 2012 (28 per cent).
The worst disturbances
On Wednesday, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge protested the presence of marshals in the House, saying women MPs were not “safe”, and Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress tweeted: “6.30pm FASCISM #Parliament. CENSORSHIP RSTV. Bad to worse. Modi-Shah’s brutal government is now using “GENDER SHIELDS” to foil MP protests inside Rajya Sabha. Male marshals for women MPs. Female marshals posted in front of male MPs. (Few Oppn MPs shooting videos for proof)”
Leader of the House Piyush Goyal countered that Opposition members had tried to attack table staff and the Secretary General, and attempts had been made to strangulate a woman security staffer.
The Monsoon Session also saw the suspension of six TMC MPs for a day for disorderly conduct.
* On February 14, 2014, Lok Sabha witnessed drama and disruption unlike any other witnessed in Parliament. As the government introduced the Bill to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh, then Congress MP L Rajagopal smashed a glass item on the Secretary General’s table, and then started to indiscriminately spray pepper spray in the House. Three MPs were hospitalised, and 16 anti-Telangana MPs were suspended for the remainder of the Session.
* In March 2010, Rajya Sabha witnessed chaos as the Women’s Reservation Bill was taken up. Members opposed to the Bill threw around copies and created such a storm that marshals had to be called in to physically evict them from the House. Seven MPs — Subhash Yadav (RJD), Kamal Akhtar, Veerpal Singh Yadav, Nand Kishore Yadav, and Amir Alam Khan (SP), Sabir Ali (LJP), and Ejaz Ali (JD-U) — were suspended until the end of the Session.
* Last year, the passage of the three contentious farm laws had witnessed unsavoury scenes. The scenes of Tuesday were anticipated when Rajeev Satav of the Congress and Sanjay Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party climbed on to the Secretary General’s table. Eight Opposition MPs — TMC floor leader O’Brien and his party colleague Dola Sen, K K Ragesh and Elamaram Kareem of the CPI(M), and Syed Nasir Hussain and Ripun Borah of the Congress, besides Satav and Sanjay Singh — were suspended for a week.
* Before that, in March 2020, seven Congress MPs — Gaurav Gogoi, T N Prathapan, Manickam Tagore, Gurjeet Singh Aujla, Benny Behanan, Rajmohan Unnithan, and Adv. Dean Kuriakose — were suspended from Lok Sabha for the rest of the Budget Session. They were accused of snatching papers from the Speaker’s table as the Opposition strongly demanded a discussion on the Delhi riots.
* In January 2019, then Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had suspended as many as 45 members belonging to the TDP and AIADMK after they continuously disrupted proceedings for days. While the AIADMK members were protesting over a proposed dam on the Cauvery, the TDP members were demanding special status to Andhra Pradesh.
* In September 2013, nine Andhra MPs — four from the TDP and five from the Congress — were suspended for disrupting the proceedings with their protests against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
* In August 2013, 12 MPs from Andhra Pradesh were suspended from Lok Sabha for five days over the same issue.
* In April 2012, eight Congress MPs from Telangana were suspended for four days for disrupting the proceedings with demands for a separate Telangana.
The difference this time
Even though the Monsoon Session was badly hit in terms of productivity, and the time spent on discussion and passage of Bills came down drastically, the government did manage to push through a large volume of legislation.
According to PRS data, Lok Sabha took only 34 minutes on average to pass a Bill, while Rajya Sabha did it in 46 minutes. Some Bills, like the Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill, 2021, were passed within five minutes. Only the OBC Bill was discussed for more than an hour in both Houses.
In comparison, the current Lok Sabha as a whole has so far spent 2 hours and 23 minutes on average discussing a Bill; Rajya Sabha has spent 2 hours on average.
While Lok Sabha sat for 21 hours and 14 minutes in the Monsoon Session against the stipulated time of 96 hours, thus losing 74 hours and 46 minutes to interruptions, as many as 13 Bills were introduced and 20 Bills were passed. The important ones: The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill.
Rajya Sabha sat for 28 hours and 21 minutes against the scheduled time of 97 hours and 30 minutes, losing 76 hours and 26 minutes to interruptions. The House passed 19 Bills; four Bills were introduced.