Stepping up its attack on the government over Income Tax Amendment Bill, a united opposition today petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee against it, alleging the legislation was hurriedly passed in the Lok Sabha bypassing parliamentary rules and procedures. As many as 16 opposition parties, including Congress, arch rivals TMC and the Left, SP and BSP, besides DMK, JMM, NCP and others met the President at Rashtrapati Bhawan this evening and handed over a memorandum, which alleged a "brute and authoritarian" government was "stifling" the democratic process. The JD-U, whose president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has supported demonetisation, however, was not part of the delegation. "We appeal to you as the custodian and protector of the Constitution to intervene at this juncture as the democratic rights are being trampled upon by a brute and authoritarian government that is hell bent upon stifling the democratic and legislative process of our Parliament," the memorandum said. It said the mandatory provisions of Constitution and Rules of Procedure were "totally violated" in passing the Bill. The memorandum said though Lok Sabha members raised these issues in the House, their democratic rights were denied on the plea that there was no time to wait for the President's assent as the bill was very important. "This is not permissible in law and amounts to undermining the authority of the President of India," the memorandum said. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who was part of the delegation, alleged that Parliamentary procedure was not followed in the passing of the legislation and voice of people was being "suppressed blatantly" now in Parliament too. "We met the President because of the Bill that was passed without allowing any discussion. There is a sense in the country that the voice of the people is being suppressed and crushed. "This was being done across the country and now it is being done in Parliament blatantly. This is not the way to run parliamentary democracy.
That is why we have come to meet the President here," he said.
The opposition memorandum said it is mandatory under Rule 82 that the Minister shall inform the House in writing whether the recommendation of the President for moving amendments has been given, withheld or rejected. It said any legislation, especially the one like IT Amendment Bill, which not only relates to taxation but also involves the issue of eliminating the scourge of black money, calls for a detailed discussion in both Houses of Parliament. "The government, for reasons beyond our comprehension, passed this Bill without affording opportnity and depriving us of our democratic rights and privileges as Members of the Houses, a travesty to the principles of democracy," the memorandum said. TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said as many as 16 opposition parties got together and explained to the President how the Income Tax Amendment Bill was taken up and passed. "We are all aggrieved about how the democratic system and Parliamentary rules and procedures are being violated. So we made a fervent appeal to the President to intervene and see to it that the bills are passed according to rules and procedures. We hope we will get positive results," he said. Bandyopadhyay said the opposition was united on the issue and hoped it will remain so. "If all opposition parties are united, we can do so many things," he said. Incidently, the last time TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met the President demanding roll back of demonetisation, the Congress and some leading opposition parties were not present. Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said, "This is a big blow to democracy and there is an attempt being made by this government to trample democracy in the country." He said the Prime Minister spoke more outside Parliament than inside which was causing problems.