Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh on Sunday cited the lack of order in the Upper House earlier this month during the passage of farm bills to defend his decision to not allow the division of votes, News 18 reported.

His clarification followed media reports that footage of Rajya Sabha TV revealed 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 the passage of two farming bills in the Upper House on September 20. Singh had claimed at that time that he denied the Opposition’s demand for a division of votes because the legislators were not seated when they asked for a division of votes.

The Janata Dal (United) leader on Sunday released some papers showing the chronology of the events on September 20 as well as a note with his clarification.

“Would like to place certain facts to put the records straight,” Singh said in the note. “The statutory resolution disapproving the ordinance and the amendment for the reference of the bill to select committee moved by KK Ragesh were negated by voice vote by the house at 1.07 pm as Sri Ragesh was in the Well of the house and not on his seat in the gallery at that point of time. This can be seen from the video as after calling him to move his Resolution and amendment, I looked at the gallery, but he was not there.”

Singh noted that Siva had demanded a division of votes at 1.10 pm. But, he claimed: “You will see from the same video that around 1.09 pm, one member was tearing the rule book and throwing on me. Besides, I was surrounded by some hostile members, who were trying to snatch papers from me.”

The deputy chairman said that two things were essential to have a division as per rules and practice. “Firstly there should be a demand for division and equally important that there should be order in the House,” Singh said. “I hold a constitutional position and therefore, cannot issue a formal rebuttal. I am bringing these facts to your notice and leave it to your conscience for your judgment.”

Rajya Sabha TV visuals

The Rajya Sabha TV visuals, which The Indian Express had reviewed, show that separate motions moved by Siva and O’Brien seeking that the farming bills be referred to a select committee were negated by a voice vote. At 1.09 pm, a demand for the division of votes can be heard to which the deputy chairman replied that such demands need to be made from the seat. Footage at 1.10 pm shows that Siva was in his seat demanding division of votes. Derek O’Brien was then seen rushing to the chairman’s podium with Parliament rulebook shouting that Singh could not do this, while referring to the rules. Siva can still be seen at his seat then.

After the Deputy Speaker began clause by clause consideration of the bill, KK Ragesh was seen at this seat, demanding the division of votes.

At 1.12 pm, Siva can be seen tearing his paper, while Ragesh was at his seat. The next minute, the microphone on the chairman’s podium was uprooted, after which the audio remained off. The Rajya Sabha was then adjourned for 15 minutes.

During the proceedings, 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 after they were stopped from speaking. Eight MPs were suspended from the House for their “unruly behaviour”.

The controversial farm bills

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill were cleared by Parliament earlier this month amid protests from the Opposition. President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday evening gave his assent to the three bills, though leaders of Opposition parties had met him last week, urging him not to give his assent.

Critics say that these new agricultural policies would lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations. Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills. The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s oldest allies, pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance in protest against these bills.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre, however, has consistently maintained that the bills would help in farmers getting a higher price for their produce as state-based Agricultural Produce Market Committees or APMC has been removed.

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