THE face-off between the government and the Opposition over the passage of two key farm Bills in Rajya Sabha escalated on Monday with Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu suspending eight MPs “for the remaining part of the current session” on a motion brought in by the government citing “unruly behaviour”.
The suspended MPs — Congress’s Rajeev Satav, Syed Naseer Hussain and Ripun Bora; Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien and Dola Sen; AAP’s Sanjay Singh; and CPI(M)’s K K Ragesh and Elamaram Kareem – refused to leave the House, leading to ruckus and multiple adjournments.
After Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day, the suspended MPs sat on a dharna in front of the Gandhi statue at Parliament, where they continued to protest through the night.
Opposition MPs, from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, dropped in at the protest site in a show of support and solidarity. Some like Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva and RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha dropped in at night. While Siva brought idlis, sambar and chutney for the eight MPs, AAP’s Sanjay Singh provided lunch and evening snacks. Singh also made arrangements for bedsheets, pillows and blankets, while the fans were provided by Parliament.
Earlier in the day, the Opposition sought to bring a no-confidence resolution against Deputy Chairman Harivansh, but Naidu rejected the move, saying it needed a 14-day notice. He said the resolution was not in “proper format”.
In a related development, 18 parties have written to President Ram Nath Kovind asking him not to give his assent to the farm Bills. They have also sought an audience with him. In a detailed memorandum, they have recounted the events that unfolded in Rajya Sabha Sunday and the reason for moving a no-confidence resolution against Harivansh.
With both the government and the Oopposition refusing to budge, the rest of the monsoon session faces the threat of a washout as far as Rajya Sabha is concerned.
The motion for suspension of the MPs, moved by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V Muraleedharan, said: “…members be suspended from the services of the House for the remaining part of the current session for their unruly behaviour, especially with the Chair, and their gross disorderly conduct in violation of the rules and etiquette of Rajya Sabha, thereby bringing disrepute to this august House and causing insult to the Office of Hon. Deputy Chairman, yesterday, i.e. the 20th September, 2020”.
The motion was accepted by a voice vote. Naidu announced that the members were “suspended for the remaining part of the current session” and asked them to “leave the House”.
But the suspended members refused to leave. The Opposition demanded that the resolution to suspend the members be put through a division of votes. As Opposition members protested, with several members moving to the Well of the House, the House was adjourned four times, before being adjourned for the day.
“We did not leave because our suspension is not valid as per the rules. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister moved the motion. The Chair took a voice vote. We demanded a division. The Chair did not agree. The procedure clearly states that even if a single member asks for a division, it is the responsibility of the Chair to carry out the division. There was no division, which is a blatant violation of the rules of Rajya Sabha. Since the rules were not adhered to…our suspension is not valid. So that is why we did not leave the House,” Ragesh later told The Indian Express.
Addressing the House before the government brought in the resolution to suspend the eight MPs, Naidu said: “I was so pained yesterday. All social distancing and Covid-related precautions were violated by some members in the House yesterday. It pained me a lot because of what happened yesterday. It defies logic. It was really a bad day for Rajya Sabha… Some members came into the Well of the House. They also threw papers… They wrenched the mike of the Deputy Chairman. They hurled some papers at the Deputy Chairman. They also abused the Deputy Chairman and the rule book was also thrown at him.”
“You have no right to obstruct the Chairman… Getting on the table, dancing in the House and also obstructing the business of the House is very unfortunate, unacceptable and condemnable,” he said.
“If marshals were not called on time, what would have happened to the Deputy Chairman? I am worried. He says that he was abused with objectionable words,” Naidu said. “The Deputy Chairman was physically threatened. I am worried that he would have been harmed also,” he said.
On the Opposition’s no-confidence motion against the Deputy Chairman, Naidu said: “After carefully going through the provisions of the Constitution, the Rules of Rajya Sabha and past precedents, I observe, at the outset, that the motion is not in proper format.”
“Further, as per the provisions of Article 90 (c) of the Constitution, a notice period of 14 days is required for moving a resolution, not a motion. As the House is going to be adjourned sine die on 1st October, 2020, as per the present schedule, notice does not complete the required period of 14 days. Hence, I rule that the motion given by the Leader of Opposition and other members is not admissible,” he said.
Rajya Sabha MP and lawyer Abhishek Singhvi, who drafted the motion, told The Indian Express that the “complaint cannot and should not be rejected at the threshold by the Chairman because the 14-day notice is required for consideration of the motion, not for filing it or moving it.”
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