17 Opposition MPs express concern over passing Bills without scrutiny, write to Rajya Sabha Chairman

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

ANI New Delhi Jul 26, 2019, 06.45 PM (IST)

As many as 17 opposition members have written to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu raising serious concerns over how the Central government is "hurriedly" passing legislation without any scrutiny by the Standing or Select Committees of Parliament.

In the letter dated July 25, the lawmakers have said that it is a fundamental departure from the established practice and healthy traditions of enacting legislations.

"In the 14th Lok Sabha, 60 per cent of Bills were sent for scrutiny to the parliamentary committees. In the 15th Lok Sabha, 71 per cent of Bills were sent for scrutiny. In the 16th Lok Sabha, only 26 per cent of Bills were sent for scrutiny. Now, in the 17th Lok Sabha, 14 Bills have already been passed in the first session. But, none of these Bills has been referred to a Standing Committee or Select Committee for a legislative scrutiny," the members wrote.

They have underlined that public consultation is a long-established practice where parliamentary committees scrutinise Bills, deliberate, engage and work towards improving the content and quality of the legislation.

The MPs recalled that the first session of the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th Lok Sabha had about 10 sittings each. 

"In that time, only a handful of Bills, that had undergone parliamentary scrutiny, were passed," they said.

"The first Session of the 17th Lok Sabha has had 30 sittings. In this period, a dubious record has been set up: 14 Bills have been passed and none has been scrutinised by any Parliamentary Committee. Further, 11 more Bills have been listed for introduction, consideration and passing," the letter read.

Recalling an incident, the MPs wrote, "The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was laid on the table of Rajya Sabha at 5.01 pm on Friday, July 19. It was then listed for discussion in the house for the next working day, i.e., July 22. Members were not given sufficient time to file notices of amendments to the Bill."

"Later, on the morning of July 22, the members were verbally informed at the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting that the notice to amendments to the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill can be filed till 12 noon. This is a violation of Rule 95 of the 'Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States' which entitles the members to have at least one day's (working) time to file amendment notices," they added.

The members said that once the Bill was taken up for consideration and passing, the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha Harivansh invoked Rule 266.

"Rule 266 is clear. It may be invoked in case of 'matters not specifically provided for' in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business. In this case, however, Rule 95 is explicit in its provisions," they said.

The members have demanded that short duration discussions should be held under Rule 176 in the Upper House, underlining that it allows them to raise matters of urgent public importance.

"There is a long-standing convention to have one short duration discussion each week. In the four weeks of the Budget session, only two short-duration discussions have been allowed," they said.

The members further urged Naidu to ensure that the voice of the opposition is not "smothered" in the Rajya Sabha.

"While we understand our responsibility and the need to enact legislation, any attempt by the government to undermine the privileges of members, the rules and established conventions will diminish the role of the council of states as envisaged by our founding fathers," the MPs stated.

Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma (Congress), Derek O`Brien (TMC), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), Majeed Memon (NCP), Manoj Jha (RJD), Vaiko (MDMK), and Sanjay Singh (AAP) are among the 17 MPs, who wrote the letter to the Rajya Sabha Chairman. 

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They have underlined that public consultation is a long-established practice where parliamentary committees scrutinise Bills, deliberate, engage and work towards improving the content and quality of the legislation