The Congress on Monday announced its decision to move a privilege motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha on the Rafale deal, ANI reported.

Congress leader Anand Sharma on Monday alleged that Modi had knowledge of the deal between India and France for 126 fighter aircraft. “Our prime minister arbitrarily, without any sanction from the Cabinet Committee on Security, changed the Rafale deal, where the price was much higher per unit of aircraft,” The Indian Express quoted Sharma as saying in Parliament. “The PM must confirm or deny in the Parliament that after returning from France the deal was changed without informing the Cabinet Committee on Security.”

The members of the Bharatiya Janata Party have moved a notice for privilege motion against Congress President Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha, accusing him of misleading Parliament by making false allegations against Modi and Sitharaman. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said she would examine the notice, PTI reported.

Earlier in the day, Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said his party would raise the matter of cow vigilantism and mob lynching in Parliament on Monday. “This government does not want the situation in the country to improve,” ANI quoted him as saying.

His remarks came soon after a man was allegedly lynched in Rajasthan’s Alwar district on Friday on the suspicion of smuggling cows. The attack itself came days after the Supreme Court strongly condemned the lawlessness perpetuated by mobs across India under the guise of cow protection, and urged Parliament to make a special law to curb such attacks.

Kharge also claimed that an officer, who was taking notes and counting the number of opposition members during the Question Hour, was carrying out “surveillance”. Mahajan assured the Congress legislators that she would look into the matter. But Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said the officer worked for his ministry and was merely carrying out his duties.

The Lok Sabha passed the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill in the afternoon. The bill provides that cases against cheque bouncing can be filed at the place where the cheque is presented for clearance, and not the place of issue, The Indian Express reported. However, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said the bill should allow trial in absentia for people who willfully do not appear in a cheque bounce case.

Meanwhile, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned soon after it convened on Monday after uproar in the House following Congress MP Anand Sharma’s statement against central investigation agencies, ANI reported. The Upper House reconvened at noon.

“The central investigation agencies have a role to perform under the Constitution,” Sharma said. “They are not instrument to use for the government of the day for political vendetta or persecute senior government officials. There cannot be any discrimination.”

Sharma alleged that investigating agencies were trying to “extract” confessions to implicate people but did not specify any case, PTI reported. The treasury benches protested against Sharma’s reaction, with Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel accusing him of attempting to demoralise the agencies.

When the House reconvened, the Opposition demanded that the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017 be sent to a select committee. The amendment allows the government to take up infrastructure projects within prohibited areas around protected monuments.

The Lok Sabha has already passed the legislation on January 3. Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said that bill needs to be passed in the Upper House soon, as important infrastructure projects were on hold.

In the Lok Sabha, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan cut off Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, when he tried to raise the matter of increasing incidents of rape in the country. “Don’t politicise rapes, I am also a woman,” the Speaker told Scindia.

Madhepura (Bihar) MP Pappu Yadav spoke about the alleged rape of girls at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur and demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Earlier in the day, ANI reported that Telugu Desam Party legislator YS Chowdary had given a notice in the Rajya Sabha to discuss the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. The Act led to the bifurcation of the state and the formation of Telangana.

Bharatiya Janata Party MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe had submitted a notice for suspension of business in the Upper House to discuss how floods have affected several parts of the country.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the government was willing to take up a separate discussion on floods as many states are facing this problem.

‘Higher Education Commission will be an independent body’

During discussions on the proposed Higher Education Commission, the government said it
would be an independent body and that the rights of states would not be impugned. Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar made the remark in the Lok Sabha while answering the concerns expressed by members over replacing the University Grants Commission, PTI reported.

Javadekar clarified that there would not be any change in existing reservations for Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Class and others.

The Higher Education Commission of India Bill, 2018 seeks to repeal the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 and establish the commission to effectively attain standards and enhance quality of higher education.

No-confidence motion in Lok Sabha

On Friday, the Narendra Modi government won its first no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha after a 12-hour debate. In a nearly 90-minute speech, Modi said the Opposition had tabled the motion out of arrogance.

The prime minister’s remarks came hours after Congress President Rahul Gandhi targeted the Centre over the Rafale jet deal with France and insinuated that the prime minister had favoured certain businessmen. He also lashed out at Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, claiming she had not been truthful about the deal.

“Our defence minster has clearly said about the Rafale agreement between India and France in the Parliament,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said on Monday. “Now Rahul Gandhi wants to rake up a non issue with baseless charges, let them come with their allegations, government had made this deal in best interest of the country.”