Speaker Om Birla put Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi’s proposal to expel the member before the House after hour-long deliberations, and it was approved by a voice-vote in which the Opposition did not participate because of its walk-out.
Parliament’s special session last week was no routine affair. The world of Parliament changed completely in its four sittings from Monday. Parliament moved from its 96-year-old building to its new House close by, on the second day. The same day, the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill to give 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, was introduced in the Lok Sabha.
Over the next two days, the bill was passed by the two Houses almost unanimously, except for the two negative votes in the Lower House. It was like an angelic tornado passing over the central legislature area, bringing transformation in a most peaceful manner. The two Houses of Parliament will henceforth function from two most spacious halls equipped with latest communication facilities in the new building.
The process to allot one-third seats to women in the powerful Lok Sabha has also begun. The changes were extraordinary achievements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his two terms of office. He shared his vision for the changes, and he realized them well in time. There were some voices raising some questions, but they were handled by the government with calm and restraint, allowing minimum confrontation to surface. A major issue raised by the opposition on the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam (Women’s Reservation Bill) was that an old bill passed by the Rajya Sabha during Dr Manmohan Singh’s government in 2010 was still alive.
Several speakers from the government including the home minister, Amit Shah, in the Lok Sabha and the finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, in the Rajya Sabha clarified that the bill, after getting passed in the Rajya Sabha, was transmitted to the Lok Sabha, thus becoming the Lower House’s property. Since the bill was not passed by the Lok Sabha, it lapsed after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014.
Another objection of the Congress and its associate parties in the opposition was the Congress’s bill had not specified any timeline for the implementation of the 33 per cent quota and was meant to be enforced immediately after its clearance in Parliament. The BJP government’s bill must wait for the next census and the subsequent exercise of delimitation of constituencies. This can push the actual allocation of one-third seats to women in the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies to 2029.
The bill says after the census, delimitation will be undertaken to reserve seats for women, which will be for a period of 15 years. Parliament can decide on its extension after that. Seats reserved for women will be rotated after every delimitation. This implies rotation approximately every 10 years, as after 2026, delimitation is mandated to take place after each 10-yearly census.
The law and justice minister, Arjun Ram Meghwal, moved the bill in both Houses and replied to the debates. The debate was allotted five hours in the Lok Sabha but it ran for 10 hours with 60 members taking part in it. In the Rajya Sabha, there were 70 speakers, including the finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, who spoke for 11 hours. Sonia Gandhi initiated the Lok Sabha debate and said any delay in the implementation of the law would be injustice to women.
Speaker Om Birla conducted the compulsory voting on the bill, and declared there were 454 members in favour and just two against it. In the Rajya Sabha there were 214 votes in favour and none against. In an extraordinary gesture, Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar appointed 13 women members of the Upper House as vice-chairpersons for the day when the women’s bill was being discussed and they occupied the chairman’s seat one by one.
Leader of the opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said the conditions of the census and delimitation were not fair, and that the OBCs should get benefit of the reservation. The debate on the Women’s Reservation Bill was emotional and women members in both Houses recalled the tough journeys women undertake to reach any position in the political sphere.
The sittings of the two Houses separately on Monday to discuss “Parliamentary Journey of 75 Years starting from Samvidhan Sabha – Achievements, Experiences, Memories and Learnings” and together in the Central Hall of the old Parliament House the next day, to bid adieu to the old Parliament House, were no less emotional. The prime minister said the old building was built by foreign rulers, but fellow countrymen had given their sweat for its construction. He recalled Pandit Nehru’s “At the Stroke of Midnight” speech in the Central Hall, which has been renamed Samvidhan Sadan. Members spoke of the Constituent Assembly sitting in the Central Hall and writing India’s Constitution.