The Monsoon Session of Parliament came to an end on Wednesday owing to the rising number of coronavirus cases in India. Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned sine die (with no appointed date for resumption), seven days ahead of schedule.
Rajya Sabha passed 15 bills over the last two days, clocking a productivity rate of over 100% despite this being the shortest Monsoon Session. Eight bills were passed on Wednesday in less than four hours and seven bills were passed on Tuesday in three-and-a-half hours. But this happened even as Opposition leaders boycotted proceedings of both the Houses over the suspension of eight members following the pandemonium when farms bills were taken up for voting on Sunday.
In his valedictory address as the House adjourned indefinitely, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu also pointed out that the bills were passed despite the absence of Opposition leaders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present during Naidu’s concluding remarks.
Naidu called the suspension of eight members of the House “unpleasant but inevitable”. He said he was duty-bound to uphold the dignity of the rules, standards and values of the Rajya Sabha.
The suspended Rajya Sabha MPs include Derek O’Brien and Dola Sen of the Trinamool Congress, Rajiv Satav, Ripun Bora and Syed Nasir Hussain of the Congress, Elamaram Kareem and KK Ragesh of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh. Naidu had not permitted the Opposition’s motion of no-confidence against Deputy Chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh, who was present when the contentious farm bills were passed by voice vote.
Naidu, while noting the right of the Opposition to protest, said what mattered was the manner of protest. “The rules of the House do provide for such suspension when it becomes inevitable,” he told the members. “I am naturally more pained to see that happen as the chairman of this august House. It hurts me the most when the chair is rendered helpless by the turn of events and has to perforce take action against the members as per the rules.”
After Opposition leaders were prevented from speaking in Parliament, the politicians climbed atop tables, snatched the rule book, flung documents in the air and tried to take away the deputy chairman’s microphone to lodge their protest on Sunday. The deputy chairperson has claimed that Opposition leaders threw paper missiles at him and displayed “brazenly aggressive behaviour” during the proceedings.
While the Opposition said the “anti-farmer” bills were passed in an undemocratic manner, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party accused them of disrupting parliamentary proceedings. But neither the Centre nor the Rajya Sabha chairperson and his deputy have offered an explanation as to why a division vote was not allowed on the farm bills, despite the fact that several parties were opposed to the bills.
Naidu also pointed out that boycott for a longer time deprives the members of the opportunity to effectively convey their ideas, besides contesting those of others. “We need to collectively ponder over these issues for making a difference in future,” he said.
Naidu further brought up the remarks made by Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday regarding the dilution of the powers and stature of his role. “I spoke to him several times while planning for this unique session and so was the case on many other issues,” he added. “The leader of the Opposition is very central to orderly functioning of the House and it is my firm conviction that diluting his role is unthinkable.”
Naidu urged members to ensure that “such unseemly behaviour” was not repeated in the Parliament again.
“In the 10 sittings, 25 bills were passed and 6 bills introduced,” Naidu said. “The productivity of the House during this session has been 100.47%. The new normal of high productivity witnessed during the last three sessions has continued during this session as well. As a result, the overall productivity of the last 4 sessions comes to a praiseworthy 96.13%. This high productivity for four consecutive sessions is the best during the last five years.”
During Wednesday’s proceedings, the Rajya Sabha passed the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020, the Bilateral Netting of Qualified Financial Contracts Bill, 2020, the Occupational Safety Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, the Code on Social Security, 2020, the Appropriation (No.3) Bill, 2020, and the Appropriation (Number 4) Bill, 2020.
The Lok Sabha, which was also adjourned sine die, passed the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020.
Among the Lok Sabha members, 17 had tested positive while eight Rajya Sabha members had contracted the infection in the mandatory tests before the Monsoon Session began.
The Monsoon Session of the Parliament began on September 14 with strict safety guidelines. Both Houses met for four hours each without the customary Saturday-Sunday weekend break.