JUSTIFYING his rejection of the Opposition’s demand for a division of votes during the chaotic passage of the two farm Bills in Rajya Sabha last Sunday, Deputy Chairman Harivansh said the demand wasn’t made by members from their seats. Amid the ruckus in the House, he was heard saying that members have to be in their seats to demand division.
Official footage of Rajya Sabha Television, reviewed by The Indian Express, shows otherwise.
Indeed, the sequence of events from 1 pm — when the Deputy Chairman extended the sitting — to 1.26 pm, when the House was adjourned for 15 minutes, shows that at least two members, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva and CPM’s K K Ragesh, who had moved statutory resolutions, motions and amendments, were in their seats when they demanded a division.
Consider the following.
1 pm: Deputy Chairman tells Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who was replying to the discussion on the two Bills, that it was 1 pm. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi proposes extension of the House.
Deputy Chairman asks whether the House was ready to sit till the disposal of the Bill. Congress members Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh demand proceedings be continued Monday. They and Siva ask the Deputy Chairman to take sense of the House. The Deputy Chairman says there is a consensus (aam sahmati) and asks Tomar to continue.
Members rush to the Well shouting slogans.
1.03 pm: Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad says if the House is to be extended, that should be done “on the basis of consensus”. He adds that most political parties “are saying that time should not be extended today and tomorrow the minister can reply…”
1.07 pm: Deputy Chairman begins disposing statutory resolutions before passage of the Bill amid slogan-shouting by Opposition members. Calls CPM’s K K Ragesh, who had moved a statutory resolution. Tells an unidentified member in the Well to go to his seat in the gallery upstairs. Ragesh is seated in the gallery.
1.08 pm: The statutory resolution is negated in a voice vote. He then takes up a motion moved by Ragesh seeking reference of the Bill to a select committee. The motion is negated by a voice vote.
1:09 pm: He takes up a motion moved by Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien seeking reference of the Bill to a select committee. The motion is negated by a voice vote. A voice can be heard seeking division.
Then the audio goes off for a couple of seconds.
The Deputy Chairman says demand for division should be made from the seat.
1.10 pm: He takes up a motion moved by DMK member Tiruchi Siva seeking reference of the Bill to a select committee. The motion is negated by a voice vote. The visuals clearly show Siva in his seat, with one hand raised demanding division. O’Brien rushes to the Chairman’s podium with a copy of the rule book in his hand and shouting “you cannot do this….what is the rule”. The visuals show Siva still in his seat.
1.11 pm: Deputy Speaker begins clause by clause consideration of the Bill. He takes up amendments moved by Ragesh to clause II. The visuals show Ragesh in his seat upstairs demanding division. The amendments were negated in a voice vote.
1.12 pm: Visuals show Ragesh in his seat and Siva tearing papers from his seat. Commotion intensifies.
1.13 pm: Unidentified member tries to uproot microphones installed on the Chairman’s podium.
1.14 pm: Audio goes off — and stays off.
1.26 pm: House adjourned for 15 minutes.
When contacted, O’Brien said he shouted “division” from his seat when the motion moved by him seeking reference of the Bill to a select committee was taken up.
“Between us, Siva and I have 30 years of experience in Parliament. We knew we had moved motions, we had our headsets on. Of course, we were at our seats. Our calls for ‘division’ (voting) were brazenly ignored multiple times. The video and audio evidence is damning. At least four Rules of Parliament were broken”, he told The Sunday Express.
When contacted, Ragesh said: “I went to the Well when the Chairman extended the time. But when the Minister stopped his speech and the Deputy Chairman began the process of disposing the statutory resolutions, I rushed back to my seat upstairs… I was on my seat when my seeking reference of the Bill to a select committee was taken up. I screamed division but the Deputy Chairman did not look up at me. When the Deputy Chairman took up my amendment after O’Brien’s and Siva’s motions, my microphone came alive. The Deputy Chairman looked at me…When the Chair looked at you…only then the camera focused on you…I again screamed for division…he took a voice vote and negated by amendment.”
Explaining why the Opposition asked for a deferment until Monday, Ragesh said, “Since half the Rajya Sabha members were sitting in Lok Sabha, electronic voting would not be possible. Voting can be done only through paper ballot. So voting even once would have taken at least 30 minutes. That is why we demanded that the proceedings be continued on Monday as Lok Sabha’s sitting was to begin at 3 pm.”
When contacted, Siva said: “From Day One, I have been saying that I was in my seat very much and asked for division when my name was called for the motion on the select committee. The Select Committee was our core issue. I was very much in my seat and I shouted division several times. He (Deputy Chairman) didn’t look at me. Only when he looks at me he will know that I am asking for it.”
The Deputy Chairman did not respond to questions sent to him by The Sunday Express. But sources in the secretariat said he was “distracted” by members who were moving close to his podium as he was trying to see that the papers were not snatched from him.
The House not being in order also tied his hands as heavy legislative business for the session demanded passage of the legislation the same day, these sources said. Moreover, they argued that had the Opposition not disturbed the proceedings, there would have been a division of votes since the first item itself to be disposed of was the statutory resolution by an opposition member.
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