ON A day Opposition leaders met twice and decided to press for referral of as many as seven key Bills to either standing or select committees, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha GHULAM NABI AZAD slammed the Centre for passing Bills without scrutiny. Speaking to MANOJ C G, the Congress leader said the government just wants to show that it has passed more Bills. Excerpts:
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi met some of the Opposition leaders today. You too met leaders of Opposition parties separately. What were those meetings about?
Fourteen Bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha in this session. Many more were passed in the Lok Sabha. And not one of those Bills were sent to either standing committee or select committee for scrutiny. This has never happened before. And now they want to extend the session and pass more Bills. Why was the system of standing committees brought in at the first place? The Bills are generally drafted by some officials. And in the House some 20 or 25 MPs will speak. When a Bill is referred to a standing committee or a select committee, there will be wider consultations… The standing committees were conceived so that laws are not made just on the basis of the individual opinion of the MPs.
What was the outcome of those meetings? What is the Opposition going to do?
We have decided that we will make a list of some important Bills which have greater ramification and tell the government to refer those to standing committees or select committees. If the government does not agree, then I don’t know… we don’t know what is the purpose of attending Parliament. What is the point of passing Bills in such a fashion? Just to satisfy the government’s ego that we have passed 40 Bills. It does not benefit anybody. The government just wants to show that they have passed more Bills than may be the previous Congress government….
Which Bills do you want to be referred to standing or select committees?
Important Bills should be referred to standing and select committees. We have told the government that the RTI Bill can wait. They are diluting the RTI Act instead of strengthening it…We had brought the RTI Act and made ourselves answerable…they don’t want to be answerable. They want to dilute. We also realise that every Bill cannot be sent but it is also very bad that no Bill will be sent. (The Opposition parties have identified as many as seven Bills — the Triple Talaq Bill, RTI amendment Bill, The Code Wages Bill, The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill and The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019 — to be sent to select or standing committees).
Has the government reached out to you officially on extending the session?
No. There is hardly anything for extension. It will be a futile exercise again to discuss Bills during the extension period without Parliamentary scrutiny… Extension of the session means passing more Bills without scrutiny.
The government has a majority in the Lok Sabha. But that is not the case in the Rajya Sabha.
If we make noise, they say the Opposition is obstructing. The media too is not educating the public on how important the standing committees are. The public should know what is a standing committee. In any other country, the government would have been under fire from the media for not sending Bills for Parliamentary scrutiny… But this government is not bothered. They don’t believe in democracy. This government is totally unaccommodative. During our time, Opposition would give amendments while the Bill was being discussed… and we used to accommodate few of the amendments. That is not the case now. Now they will either make the MP withdraw the amendment or go for the vote to defeat him. That is not a healthy practice.