The controversy over the farms bills vote in the Rajya Sabha on September 20 refuses to die down.
On Sunday, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Harivansh Narayan Singh put out his version of events. Singh was the presiding officer during the vote.
The contentious bills that will bring enormous changes in the farm sector had been passed by a voice vote. This means that MPs were invited to put forward their opinion in the forms of ayes (yes) or noes. Based on a rough measure that there was greater support for the bills, the speaker decided that the motion was passed.
However, as per the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, if the result of a voice vote is called into question by a member, the Rajya Sabha should go for a division. A division involves actual voting by MPs with a record maintained of how each member voted.
Singh had claimed that he denied the Opposition’s demand for a division of votes because the legislators were not seated when they asked.
On Sunday morning, the Indian Express reported that footage of the dramatic day on Rajya Sabha TV showed that Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Tiruchi Siva and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader KK Ragesh were in their seats when they demanded a division of votes during
Later on Sunday, Singh agreed that it was “true” that there was a request for division by an MP from his seat. But then he also went on to justify his decision to ignore the request and plough forward with a voice vote, arguing that “order in the House” is “equally important” to have a division.
Unfortunately, Singh’s clarification only muddies the waters further.
While the House proceedings were underway, the deputy chairman had argued that the MPs were not on their seats when they called for the division.
Now Singh has backtracked on this argument and has admitted that the call for decision was made by an MP from his seat.But a new justification has been offered: disorder in the House that prevented a division.
It is true that order in the House is required for a division. However, it is equally true that order in the House is also required for a voice vote. If there was disorder in the House, how did the deputy chairman ascertain which side was louder?
Indeed, video footage of the bills being passed is damning. There is so much chaos, it would be impossible to ascertain if there were more ayes than noes. However, this did not deter the deputy chairman and he bulldozed through, marking every vote as having more “ayes” than “noes”.
The contradictory statement and lack of clarity of the actual opinion of the Rajya Sabha towards the critical farma is an urgent reminder that the antiquated practise of a voice vote must go and India’s highest legislative body must vote by division for every bill.