In a letter sent to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, 17 Opposition parties have raised concerns over the “hurried” passage of Bills in Parliament without any scrutiny. The parties have bemoaned the government not allowing members sufficient time to study a Bill and move amendments between their introduction and when they are is taken up for consideration and passing.
The letter came a day after the Rajya Sabha witnessed unruly scenes during the voting on the Opposition’s motion to send the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill to a select committee of the House.
While the Opposition did not refer to the incident in their letter, the chairman did during the morning session of the Rajya Sabha. Naidu cautioned both the ruling and Opposition members. He said those in authority should be more careful in following decorum of the House.
The Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Telugu Desam Party, the Communist party of India, the CPI (M) and nine other smaller parties have signed the letter.
The signatories said they wished to register their “anguish and serious concern over the manner in which the government is hurriedly passing legislations without any scrutiny by parliamentary standing or select committees.
“This is a fundamental departure from the established practice and healthy traditions of enacting legislations,” the letter said.
It argued that in the 14th Lok Sabha, 60 per cent of bills were sent for scrutiny to parliamentary committees while in the 15th Lok Sabha, this percentage was 71. It said that in the 16th Lok Sabha, only 26 per cent of Bills were sent for scrutiny.
It said in the 17th Lok Sabha, that is the current one, 14 Bills have already been passed in the first session and none referred to a standing/select committee for legislative scrutiny. It said 11 more Bills have been listed.
“Public consultation is a long established practice where parliamentary committees scrutinise bills, deliberate, engage and work towards improving the content and quality of the legislation,” the letter stated.
It requested Naidu to intervene in the matter. It complained that the government did not given sufficient time for the members to file their amendments for the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill. Customarily, two working days are provided between when the bill is introduced and when the House takes it up for consideration and passing.
The letter said this was not done for the Bill in question, which violated rule 95 of the rules of procedures and conduct of the House.
The letter said the Rajya Sabha has a tradition of at least one short duration discussion a week to discuss matters of urgent public importance. In the four weeks of the current budget session, only two such discussions have taken place. Members, including those of the BJP, had sought a discussion on the “freedom of the press” on July 4, but this has not been taken up.
In his remarks in the morning, the chairman castigated the opposition for its demand in the House on Thursday that the voting should take place on the motion to send the bill to a select committee before the start of the discussion.
Naidu recalled earlier rulings stating that discussion on Bill and amendments is taken up together after which amendments would be put to vote. All should understand this position and follow henceforth, Naidu said.
In the Lok Sabha, Speaker Om Birla has asked Samajwadi Party MP Azam Khan to apologise for his sexist remarks against BJP member Rama Devi. Khan made the remarks on Thursday when the BJP MP was officiating the proceedings. Women MPs cutting across party lines criticised Khan for his remarks and demanded exemplary punishment.