Amidst din, Rajya Sabha passes three bills; adjourned sine die (Lead)

December 23rd, 2008 - 6:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Dec 23 (IANS) Faced with unrelenting protests over the controversial remarks of Minorities Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay on the killing of Maharashtra Police officer Hemant Karkare and legislation on insurance reforms, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die Tuesday after passing three bills amidst much din.”The 214th session of the Rajya Sabha comes to a close,” Chairman Hamid Ansari announced when the house met at 3 p.m. after the third adjournment Tuesday caused by the protests by the Bharatiya Janata Party over Antulay’s remarks and the Left parties over proposed insurance reforms.

In the process, a promised statement from the government on Karkare’s killing during the Mumbai terror attacks could not be made, even though it was tabled in the Lok Sabha.

For the second successive day, the trouble erupted as the house assembled at 11 a.m. with BJP and Left MPs attempting to outshout each other even as Ansari pleaded that question hour be allowed to proceed.

“Please let question hour proceed,” he said but the din continued unabated, prompting him to add, barely three minutes into the session: “Honourable members, this house is violating its own dignity. The chair has no option but to adjourn the house till 12 noon.”

Unfazed by the continuing protests when the house re-assembled, with Left MPs even advancing to the speaker’s podium, Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan hurried through the business listed and asked for 35 statements and two reports of standing committees to be tabled and called on six ministers to make their statements.

This led to a comical moment when Matilal Sarkar of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, who was among the protestors, was asked to table the report of the standing committee on food.

Sarkar moved back from the protesters and waved his left arm in the air to indicate the report had been tabled.

In the midst of all this, a group of BJP members also advanced to the speaker’s podium, repeatedly shouting “Antulay hatao, Desh ko bachao (Remove Antulay, Save the country)”.

The BJP is upset with Antulay for suggesting that Karkare, who headed Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad, was killed because he was probing the role of radical Hindu groups in the bomb blasts in the state’s Malegaon town.

Ten minutes into the session, Khan adjourned the house till 2 p.m.

With the opposition MPs unrelenting in their protests when the house resumed, Khan called on Railways Minister Lalu Prasad to move the Appropriation (Railways) Bill 2008 and this was passed by a voice vote.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V. Narayanasamy then moved a bill on reservations in appointments in the civil services for members of the scheduled castes and tribes. This too sailed through on a voice vote even as the din continued unabated.

Thereafter, Communications and IT Minister A. Raja moved a bill to amend the IT act and this was also passed by a voice vote.

Once the legislative business was over, a little over five minutes into the session, Khan asked if he should call out the names of 39 members who had given notice of making special mentions but no one paid him any heed.

Khan then adjourned the house till 3 p.m.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is the leader of the house, entered the Rajya Sabha about five minutes before the session resumed and this was a clear indication that the house would be adjourned sine die. This was reinforced when Khan came out of the speaker’s chamber and took his place next to Leader of Opposition Jaswant Singh.

Ansari then took his place on the speaker’s podium and announced the conclusion of the session.

(The chairman normally presides over the question hour while the deputy chairman or one of the six vice chairman steer the house through the other business of the day.)

In a brief closing address, Ansari noted that 2008 would go down in parliamentary history “as the year when the house had the lowest number of annual sittings - mere 46 sittings for the calendar year”.

Expressing his annoyance at the frequent disruptions of these sittings, Ansari said: “The raison d’etre of our existence is enacting legislation after due deliberation and ensuring the accountability of the executive.

“While much legislative activity has taken place in this session, the passing of important legislative business in the din does no credit to our parliament,” Ansri noted.

“Apart from its inherent undesirability, the absence of parliamentary debate would not help future generations in ascertaining the legislative intent. The contrast with the debates of the Constituent Assembly and thereafter could not be more stark,” Ansari added.

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