In an unprecedented move, as many as 12 Opposition parties came together Sunday to submit a no-confidence resolution seeking the removal of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh. The move followed uproar in the House over his decision to extend the session beyond the scheduled 1 pm while overruling Opposition pleas to continue discussions on the contentious Farm Bills the next day.
In a counter move, the government is likely to seek the suspension of Opposition MPs who were involved in the unruly scenes witnessed in the House. Sources said the government could invoke Rule 256, which deals with the suspension of a member.
“But the final decision rests with the Chairman. The BJP could also move a privilege motion against some of the Opposition MPs,” sources said. Several Union Ministers later met Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and discussed the ruckus in the House, they said.
The Opposition resolution stated: “The Deputy Chairman has violated all the canons of law, procedure, parliamentary procedures, practices and fair play. Today, the Deputy Chairman did not allow points of order to be raised, did not allow large numbers of members of Rajya Sabha from diverse political parties opposing the anti-farmer bill…even to speak.”
It said that the Opposition parties have “no confidence” in the Deputy Chairman, “hereby move this motion for his removal”, and that he cannot “preside over the House” till a decision on their motion is taken. Among the parties that backed the resolution, which was drafted by lawyer-MPs Abhishek Singhvi and K T S Tulsi, were the Congress, TMC, DMK, CPM, CPI, RJD, AAP, TRS, SP, IUML and Kerala Congress (M).
Addressing a press conference later, Congress MP K C Venugopal alleged that BJP MPs were seen “whispering in the ears” of the Deputy Chairman and demanded to know what “conspiracy” had transpired.
Asked about the government’s possible counter move, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien told The Indian Express: “If the Chairman is thinking of suspending MPs, the first people who should be suspended are all those Cabinet Ministers who were there, who were murdering democracy. They were breaking all the rules.” At least one Congress MP told The Indian Express that he was ready to face suspension.
The rules say that “a member holding office as Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha may be removed from his office by a resolution of the Rajya Sabha passed by a majority of all the then members of the Rajya Sabha; but the resolution can be moved only when at least fourteen days’ notice has been given of the intention of moving”.
The Opposition move was described as “unprecedented” by Parliament veterans. “As far as I can remember, there has been no instance of a no-confidence motion against the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha,” P D T Achari, former Secretary General of the Lok Sabha, told The Indian Express.
The Opposition motion said: “Appropriate precedents in this regard are available in several treatises, including the ‘Practice and Procedure of Parliament by M N Kaul and S L Shakdher’ seventh edition…and Article 90 of the Constitution.”
The precedents cited from the book by the Opposition include resolutions moved against the first Lok Sabha Speaker G V Mavalankar in 1951, Speaker Sardar Hukam Singh in 1966 and Speaker Balram Jakhar in 1987. It says “at the sitting of Lok Sabha, while any resolution for the removal of the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker from his office is under consideration, the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker, as the case may be, cannot preside even though he is present in the House”.
Incidentally, the resolution against Mavalankar came up for discussion in 1954 and was negated by the House after a discussion. The other two resolutions were also discussed and negated by the House.
Article 90 deals with “vacation and resignation of, and removal from, the office of Deputy Chairman a member holding office as Deputy Chairman of the Council of States”.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Venugopal said: “Without taking the sense of the House, the Deputy Chairman went for passing the Bills. We haven’t seen such a practice before…The Treasury benches came with a pre-fixed mind. They were not ready to listen to the agony of the farmer, the Opposition voice, they were not ready to have a division (of votes).”
He said: “Surprisingly, we witnessed BJP members going to the Deputy Chairman and they were whispering in his ears. Parliamentary Affairs Minister goes there…understandable. But BJP member Bhupender Yadav was whispering in the ears of the Deputy Chairman. What conspiracy transpired? This is unacceptable Parliamentary democratic procedures.”
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