With the Opposition boycotting the proceedings to protest against suspension of eight MPs, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday saw eight Bills passed within three-and-a-half hours, before the House was adjourned sine die.
Three Bills about the new labour codes were passed even though Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, along with leaders of nine other parties, asked Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu that the legislation should not be taken up in their absence. But the House went ahead with them.
Naidu later said he allowed the Bills since there was no “assurance” from Opposition leaders that they would be present. He also said that under Article 122 of Constitution, “validity of any proceedings of Parliament cannot be questioned”.
On Tuesday, again amid Opposition boycott, Rajya Sabha had passed seven Bills, drawing criticism from leaders of some opposition parties.
The Bills passed on Wednesday, are nearly one-third of 25 bills passed by Rajya Sabha in its 252nd session in 10 days.
The eight Bills passed include Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill; Bilateral Netting of Qualified Financial Contracts Bill; and J&K Official Languages Bill. Appropriation Bill No. 3 for financial year 2016- 17 and Appropriation Bill No. 4 for the current financial year, for additional funds, passed by Lok Sabha earlier, were sent back to the Lower House without any discussion.
The three Bills to replace 25 laws with three labour codes — Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, Industrial Relations Code, and Code on Social Security — were passed, even as Azad and nine other Opposition leaders wrote to Naidu, stating that “we urge you not to have the following three Bills passed today in the absence of Opposition parties in the House”, as they “affect livelihood of crores of workers”.
Besides Azad, the letter was signed by O’Brien (TMC), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M), Binoy Viswam (CPI), Manoj Jha (RJD), K Keshav Rao (TRS), Sanjay Singh (AAP), and Jose K Mani of KC-M. O’Brien and Kareem were suspended for the rest of the session on Monday.
Naidu later told the House that he received Azad’s letter around 12.20 pm. The Bills were passed soon after 1 pm. “I discussed it with the (RS) secretariat and I have gone through previous precedents,” he said.
Defending the new codes, MoS (Independent Charge) for Labour and Employment Santosh Kumar Gangwar said the aim of “labour reform” is to provide a “transparent system” for the changed business atmosphere.
He said the law would ensure that all 50 crore workers of organised and unorganised sectors get minimum wage, are paid on time, and have the legal right to have an appointment letter. The new codes will make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers, and industrial workers will have to give a 60-day notice to go on a strike.
‘FCRA Bill not against NGOs’
Replying to a debate on the FCRA amendment Bill, MoS (Home) Nityanand Rai said, “This is certainly a Bill to bring transparency. It is not against NGOs (per se); only NGOs which do not adhere to transparency may feel bad. This Bill is in the interest of NGOs and transparency.” He said the Bill was necessary in the context of internal security, as there have been instances in the past where NGOs did not disclose their foreign funding and did not furnish proper audit of their expenditure.
On the provision to make it mandatory for NGO members to furnish Aadhaar, Rai told the House that as per the Supreme Court’s order, the government can bring a law to use Aadhaar to identify certain categories of people. He said some NGOs had earlier wanted to conceal the identity of their members.
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