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Rajya Sabha: Azad accuses govt of pushing contentious bills in opposition’s absence

LiveMint logoLiveMint 31-03-2017 PTI

New Delhi: Sharp exchanges were witnessed in the Rajya Sabha on Friday when Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad charged the government with trying to push legislative business when there are less members and Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi vehemently opposing it.

Azad accused the government of going back on its word by pushing contentious bills by taking advantage of lack of opposition members on Friday late afternoon.

Naqvi, the minister of state for parliamentary affairs, shot back saying ensuring the presence of opposition members was not his job and the listed legislative business can be taken up once the private members’ business collapse.

Post-lunch session of Rajya Sabha on Fridays is usually reserved for private members’ business where lawmakers bring in non-government resolutions or bills for approval.

Raising the issue, Derek O’Brien (TMC) said the revised list of business for the day lists The Factories (Amendment) Bill 2016 after the private members’ business today. He wanted the bill not to be taken up today.

Deputy chairman P.J. Kurien said if the private member business collapses before 5pm, the chair has no option but to take up the listed business.

Azad said no bills should be taken up on Friday afternoon even if the private members’ business collapses. He recalled that the government had used the absence of almost the entire opposition on a Friday earlier in this session to get the Enemy Property Bill approved.

This was despite being “unanimously” agreed at the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of the Rajya Sabha that the discussion on the bill will not be taken up unless a consensus is reached, Azad said.

The government, he said, did not inform the opposition of its intention to take up the Bill on Friday after the private member business. “This was against the spirit of decision unanimously taken,” he said. He alleged that the government has chosen this route knowing that it cannot get the bill passed otherwise and uses absence of the opposition members to get crucial bills passed.

Naqvi said the Enemy Property Bill was referred to a Select Committee of the House and when private members’ business collapsed that day, the bill, which was listed in the business of the day, was taken up. He said it was not his responsibility to ensure the presence of opposition members.

To this, Azad shot back saying the government had given an assurance that the Bill will not be taken up for discussion unless there was consensus. Kurien said the Chair was concerned only about the assurance given on the floor of the House.

“If private members business collapses before 5pm, then the Chair is duty-bound to go to the next (listed) item,” he said. “But if there is consensus in the House not to take up a particular legislation, then the item can be postponed. “If there is no consensus, the Chair has no other option but to take up the listed bill,” he said as he sought the opinion of the House on the Factories Bill.

The treasury benches said they were not in alignment with the opinion of the opposition that the bill should not be taken up today. Kurien said there is no consensus on the Factories Bill today.

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