At 250th sitting, RS debates way forward

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Nov 18, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks in the Rajya Sabha on the first day of the winter session in New Delhi on Monday

Rajya Sabha is about check and balances: PM

The Rajya Sabha celebrated its 250th sitting on Monday, the first day of the winter session. While the Opposition criticised the Centre for trying to subvert the Upper House, the government reminded them that they should know the difference between checking and clogging.

Initiating a brief debate on the “role of Rajya Sabha in Indian Polity and the way forward”, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu said the Upper House held its first sitting on May 13, 1952. “We need to learn from the experience of the last 67 years and if we don’t, there is an inherent risk of making ourselves irrelevant,” Naidu said.

In the last 249 sessions, the Upper House held 5,466 sittings and passed 3,817 Bills. Naidu said the members should review the functioning of the House and suggest reforms and the way forward so that “this exalted institution can rise to the heights that are expected of it”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Rajya Sabha is about checks and balances. “This is absolutely essential for our democracy. Debates have to be many and effective. But, there is also a difference between checking and clogging (and between) balance and blocking,” he said. Quoting former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he said the Upper House “may be the second house but no one should think of it as a secondary house.Today, I echo the sentiments of Atal-ji and add that the Rajya Sabha must be a vibrant supportive House for national progress,” he said.

He congratulated NCP and BJD for not trooping into the well of the House. “Today I want to appreciate two parties - NCP and BJD. These parties have wonderfully adhered to Parliamentary norms. They have never ventured into the well. Yet, they have made their points very effectively. Much can be learnt from these practices,” he added.

“Whenever it has been about national good, the Rajya Sabha has risen to the occasion and made a strong contribution. It was believed that the Bill on Triple Talaq would not pass here but it did. Even GST became a reality after it was passed in the Rajya Sabha,” he said.

Equal partners

Former Prime Minister and Congress leader Manmohan Singh said it was Jawaharlal Nehru who asserted that neither House had any particular superiority over the other. “He regarded the Rajya Sabha as an equal partner with Lok Sabha in the affairs of the State. But for his efforts, the Rajya Sabha would have been reduced to a mere second or revising Chamber and relegated to a secondary position in our parliamentary system,” Singh said.

Singh and many other leaders from the Opposition warned the Centre against using money Bills as a tool to circumvent Rajya Sabha.

“A crucial differentiating factor between the two Houses, is that Article 110 of the Constitution allows the Lok Sabha precedence in matters of the Money Bill. In the recent past, we have seen instances of misuse of the Money Bill provision by the Executive, leading to bypassing of the Rajya Sabha on crucial legislations of importance, without any deliberation. Those in the Treasury benches must ensure that such instances are avoided. It dilutes the stature and importance of our institutions, including the Rajya Sabha,” Singh said.

Smaller parties said they must also be given adequate time during the discussions. Certain members demanded that all States must get equal participation in the House for proper implementation of federalism as envisaged by the Constitution.

Published on November 18, 2019
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