Defence deals

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan praises ‘productive and satisfactory’ Monsoon Session

On the last day of the Monsoon Session, the Rajya Sabha was disrupted by the Opposition’s uproar over the Rafale defence deal.

Both Houses of Parliament were adjourned on Friday till the next session. Adjourning the Lok Sabha, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the Monsoon Session was “more productive and satisfactory” than the previous one, PTI reported.

The Lower House passed 21 laws during the session and also discussed a no-confidence motion against the government, which was unsuccessful. Among the key bills passed were amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill. The Monsoon Session had started on July 18.

On Friday, the Lok Sabha passed the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, which the government said will help India become a hub for domestic and global arbitration for settling commercial disputes, PTI reported. The bill proposes providing for time-bound settlement of disputes and also decides accountability of the arbitrator.

The Rajya Sabha decided to not introduce the triple talaq bill on the last day of the Monsoon Session. Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu said the bill will not be taken up as “no consensus could be built around it”. Before adjourning the House, he said productivity during the session stood at 74%, which was much more than the Budget Session’s 25%, reported PTI.

“Going by the trend of the previous two sessions, the media had forecast that this would also be a washout,” said Naidu in his closing address. “I am glad that for once, media has been proved wrong.” The session proved that “a performing Parliament can deliver its mandate”, he said.

The Rajya Sabha Secretariat expunged from its records Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments on Congress MP BK Hariprasad, who was the Opposition’s candidate for the post of deputy chairperson of the Upper House. The prime minister had used a pun on Hariprasad’s initials, which the Congress had criticised.

Earlier in the day, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh adjourned the House till 2.30 pm after Opposition legislators protested and created an uproar against the Rafale defence deal. Opposition party members, including former Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Aam Aadmi Party MP Sushil Gupta, protested against the Rafale deal outside the Parliament in the morning.

Members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal also participated in the protest, demanding a joint parliamentary committee inquiry into allegations of irregularities in the agreement over 36 Rafale jets.

Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Defence Minister AK Antony and Congress MP Ambika Soni were seen holding placards during the protest.

The protesting legislators also shouted slogans in the Rajya Sabha, demanding a debate and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reply on the matter.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel dismissed the Opposition’s allegations as baseless. He asked the Opposition to submit proper evidence against Prime Minister Narendra Modi if they are accusing him of anything.

Earlier in the day, Congress MPs reportedly boycotted a breakfast meeting hosted by Venkaiah Naidu in the honour of newly elected Deputy Chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh.

On Thursday, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had adjourned the House after Congress legislators protested against the deal in the Well of the Lower House. Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge had sought the Speaker’s permission to bring up the “biggest scam in the country” and claimed that the Rafale deal has compromised India’s national security.

The allegations

On Wednesday, advocate Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie issued a joint statement, calling the Rafale deal with France a “major scandal” and “by far larger than ones that the country has had to contend with in the past”. Union Minister Arun Jaitley and Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman refuted the allegations.

Reliance Defence and Aerospace President Rajesh K Dhingra also denied allegations of nepotism in granting of a contract related to the deal.

On July 20, Congress President Rahul Gandhi lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha, claiming they had not been truthful about the deal. He asked the government why the contract was taken away from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and given to a businessman who is under a lot of debt. It was an apparent reference to Anil Ambani.

Randeep Singh Surjewala, who is in charge of the Congress’ communications department, also urged Modi to respond to the questions asked by his former colleagues. “You shun the Opposition and keep mum,” he alleged on Wednesday.

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