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Monday, October 19, 2020

Abhishek Singhvi: ‘No-confidence rejection not in conformity with Art 90 or precedents’

We had only filed the motion; we had not asked for a decision the same day. So how can the 14-day rule have any relevance?

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | September 22, 2020 1:55:37 am
Abhishek Manu Singhvi

Rajya Sabha member, senior Congress leader and lawyer Abhishek Singhvi, who drafted the Opposition motion expressing no confidence in Deputy Chairman Harivansh and seeking his removal, and the Opposition petition to President Ram Nath Kovind, speaks with Manoj C G:

The Opposition motion seeking the removal of Deputy Chairman Harivansh was rejected. What are your views?

With the greatest respect, I say this 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. We had only filed the motion; we had not asked for a decision the same day. So how can the 14-day rule have any relevance?

Sadly, this instant rejection was done because it is an established convention that pending a no-confidence motion, the Deputy Chairman cannot preside. But that cannot be a basis or reason for rejecting our motion itself. The rejection of no-confidence is also not in conformity with Article 90 of the Constitution, nor with the well-known precedents cited in Kaul and Shakdher (the book ‘Practice and Procedure of Parliament’) which we have mentioned.

You have approached the President. Have you raised this issue?

As far as the President is concerned, you need to see Article 111 of the Constitution. We have requested him not to attach his assent to the farm Bills but to return it to the government. We have also attached the copy of the no-confidence motion with our memorandum. I feel sorry that I have been instrumental in both these documents because genuinely I have the highest regard for both the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman.

Sadly, what happened yesterday is truly unprecedented.

What prompted the Opposition to move a no-confidence motion against the Deputy Chairman?

I was present in the Lok Sabha chamber. Why I say it was unprecedented is because no attempt was made by the Chair to even look at, involve, or ask over 50 per cent of Rajya Sabha members sitting in Lok Sabha chamber. Therefore, I would cast serious doubt on compliance with quorum requirements.

Not one but innumerable members sought vote by division. It is obligatory to have a division if even one member asks for it and 99.9 per cent oppose it. For two such vital Bills, it is unimaginable that there was no division.

The Chair’s argument was that he cannot allow division because the members were not on their designated seats.

That argument is specious and unsustainable. Form cannot take the place of substance. Many members who asked for division did not leave their seats. Those who left their seats did so after shouting for division from their seats and not getting division. Why could the House not be adjourned since it was already 1.15 pm, and the same exercise be done on Monday?

I cannot understand why the Deputy Chairman acted as if it was the last day of Rajya Sabha session. The issues are much wider as they involve the backbone of India — our annadatas, the farmer community. On such matters, democracy cannot be treated as a game of numbers but instead requires that people listen, absorb and assimilate before reacting.

Significant amendments, statutory resolutions and motions to the Bill were automatically ignored when no division was considered. At the worst the House could have been adjourned because of the disturbance but how could the Bill be deemed to have been passed? It should simply have been taken up the next day and decided by division.

Therefore, I make the specific charge that the events yesterday prove one thing beyond doubt: it proves that the government knows it did not have the numbers to pass both Bills, which is why such tactics were adopted, and which is why forced closure and deemed passage of Bill happened beyond 1.15 pm.

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