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Introduction of Bill to be decided by House, not Chair: RS Deputy Chairman

The Bill was listed on the Rajya Sabha’s agenda for today also, but when the name of Alphons was called by the Deputy Chairman, he was not present.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh today said if the introduction of a Bill is opposed on the ground of legislative competence of the House, the House decides the same, and not the Chair.

He gave the ruling in the context of strong opposition to a private member’s Bill seeking to amend the Preamble of the Constitution in the last session of Parliament.

The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (amendment of the Preamble), was sought to be introduced by K J Alphons (BJP) on 3rd December, 2021.

Opposition members objected strongly saying that the Preamble was part of the basic structure of the Constitution, and could not be amended.

In his ruling, just as the House was about to take up the day’s private members’ Bills, Harivansh cited several previous rulings which laid that introduction of a Bill was to be decided by the House, and not the presiding officer.

The Bill was listed on the Rajya Sabha’s agenda for today also, but when the name of Alphons was called by the Deputy Chairman, he was not present.

Giving the ruling on the objections raised by Manoj Jha (RJD) on 3rd December last year, the Deputy Chairman said Jha had argued that the Preamble is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and the Bill may not be allowed for introduction.

Jha had also referred to Rule 62 (2) of the Rules of Procedure and contended that a Bill, which did not have the previous sanction or recommendation of the President, cannot be introduced in the House.

The Deputy Chairman said he had informed the House that a decision on the motion for leave to introduce a Bill had to be taken by the House and not by the Chair. However, on a request made by the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and after taking the sense of the House, the introduction of the Bill was deferred.

There were a number of instances in the past when Private Members’ Constitution (Amendment) Bills to amend the Preamble have been introduced in both the Houses of Parliament and they are on record, he said.

Quoting a ruling on 11th May, 1963, Harivansh said the then Chairman, Rajya Sabha, had ruled “I thank the hon. Members for the assistance they have given me in coming to a conclusion. Prima facie I think we can go on with the discussion, but I do not wish to give any ruling, because in the Central Legislature it has been the accepted practice for the Chair not to take upon itself the responsibility of deciding whether the House has the legislative competence to entertain a Bill or whether a Bill is ultra vires. When any such question is raised, the usual practice has been to leave the matter for the decision of the House.”

As regards the objection raised by Manoj Jha under Rule 62 (2) that Bill does not have the previous sanction or recommendation of the President, “I may clarify here that there is no such requirement for introduction of the Bill under reference,” the Deputy Chairman said.

He said there is no question of any doubt on the admissibility of the Bill for introduction seeking to amend the Preamble to the Constitution. Be that as it may, the Bill has been listed in today’s agenda for introduction.

The House may decide about the manner of disposal of the motion when the motion for introduction of the proposed Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Amendment of the Preamble) is moved by K J Alphons, he said.

Congress Deputy Leader Anand Sharma said, “I do not think that the House itself has any mandate or is competent to amend the Preamble to the Constitution.”

Amar Patnaik (BJD) said two changes were brought in the Preamble to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment in this country. Two words, ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ were inserted into the Preamble. It is not that the Preamble cannot be changed.

Sukhendu Sekhar Ray (Trinamool Congress) supported Anand Sharma and Manoj Jha and said, “In Kesavananda Bharati Case, the hon. Supreme Court decided inter alia that sovereignty of Parliament is there but the supremacy of the Constitution cannot be ruled out. Whether it is Parliament or any other constitutional or statutory authority, they have to abide by the Constitution.”