After two weeks of disruption and adjournments, Parliament last week debated price-rise in both Houses. The debate was sought by the Opposition and was orderly, but there was no peace between the Government and the Opposition.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla revoked the suspension of the four Congress members, who were punished in the second week of the session and asked to stay away from the House for the remaining session.
In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu expunged from record Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s comments on Congress president Sonia Gandhi over Lok Sabha Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s controversial remark about President Droupadi Murmu. Still, the Opposition was not calm and continued to raise the issue of Enforcement Directorate (ED) action against its leaders.
There were no placards, but the Opposition members entered the wells of the two Houses quite often. Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday left the House during the Question Hour saying he was summoned by the ED.
Such actions, while Parliament was in session, were meant to demoralize the Opposition, he said. Leader of the House Piyush Goyal replied the Government had no hand in it, as it did not interfere in the functioning of law enforcement authorities.
Might be such things were done when the Congress was in power, he said. Responding to Opposition protests over ED actions since the beginning of the session, the Rajya Sabha Chairman observed on Friday morning that the members of Parliament enjoyed certain privileges against police action, but there was no exemption from legal action in case of criminal acts.
He said: “Under Article 105 of the Constitution, Members of Parliament enjoy certain privileges so that they can perform their Parliamentary duties without let or hindrance. One of the privileges is that a Member of Parliament cannot be arrested in a civil case, 40 days before the commencement of the Session or Committee meeting and 40 days thereafter.
This privilege is already incorporated under section 135 A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. However, in criminal matters, Members of Parliament are not on a different footing than a common citizen.” Besides the price-rise debate and the Finance Minister’s reply to it, there were a few Bills passed by the two Houses but the week ended with an impression of disruptions and adjournments only.
The Lok Sabha saw its first adjournment on Monday morning just five minutes after assembly and the Question Hour was lost. As the House re-assembled at 12 noon, the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was introduced and the House was adjourned again. At 2 pm, Speaker Birla asked members to uphold Parliamentary traditions and maintain the dignity of the House.
The Government brought a motion for ending the suspension of the four Congress members and it was adopted. Deferring listed business, the Government took up the debate on price-rise. Thirty-one members participated and the debate lasted nearly six and a half hours.
The next day, the Rajya Sabha had a four and a half hours debate in which 33 members spoke. In the Lok Sabha, Pinaki Misra (BJD) said the Government blamed UPA Government’s oil bonds for fuel price-hike whereas the position was the Government collected over Rs 27 lakh crore oil revenues over eight years and paid less than Rs 1 lakh crore for the bonds.
While the members spoke of the difficulties of the common man in view of unemployment, rising prices and GST revisions, the Finance Minister said the Indian economy was healthier than economies of highly developed nations. Inflation rates were higher during the Congress-led UPA rule, she said.
Sitharaman said the GST decisions were taken unanimously by the GST Council in which all States were represented. The Centre collected cess levies but distributed them among States for expenditure.
The Rajya Sabha’s week began with an adjournment just a minute after assembly. The Question Hour was disrupted. Post-lunch two Bills were passed amidst constant slogan-shouting by the Opposition. The next day too, the Upper House had an early first adjournment at 11.07 am.