Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die, Chairman wonders if it justifies existence

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New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) The Rajya Sabha was on Friday adjourned sine die at the end of the Budget session, half of which was washed out due to disruptions, even as Chairman M. Venkaiah wondered if the House can justify its existence and the resources spent on it.

The upper house worked for 45 hours in 30 sittings and lost around 121 hours in disruptions over various issues, including frauds in public sector banks; demand for special status to Andhra Pradesh; Cauvery Water Management Board; fake encounters in Uttar Pradesh; review of Supreme Court order vis-a-vis the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act; and sealing of commercial establishments in Delhi.

The House also sat late for more than 10 hours to complete legislative and other important business.

In his valedictory remarks, Naidu rued that he had little to say in terms of what the Rajya Sabha did, but a lot about what it did not.

“While it is customary for the Chairman on this day to give a brief account of what has been done and delivered by the house, I am compelled to reflect on what could not be done during such an important session. You were to discuss the important Budget for the financial year and consider and return it to the other house, the Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill. It was not done,” Naidu said.

He said that no legislative work was transacted except passage of the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and that too without any discussion “even as several important bills awaited your (MPs’) consideration”.

Naidu said that all that the house did “substantially” was to discuss and adopt the Motion of Thanks to the President for his address to members of both the houses at the start of this session and the Union Budget 2018-19.

He lamented that even a farewell to the retiring members could not be done smoothly on the fixed day and had to be “negotiated” subsequently.

“The best performance of this crucial session during the 22-day second part was the three-hour 37 minutes farewell to the retiring members on March 28. Even that did not come about smoothly as the farewell observations scheduled a day earlier were also not allowed. Even that had to be negotiated,” Naidu said.

Referring to “intense debate in the Constituent Assembly over the need and justification for the Council of States”, Naidu recalled that the opinion was divided over the issue.

“During the Constituent Assembly debates on the need for a Council of States, some members feared that it would prove to be a aclog in the wheel of progress’ involving expenses and not making much contribution. I am afraid that the fears expressed about the need of this House at that time are now revisiting us and even coming true,” Naidu said.

He said that even Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who headed the Union Constitution Committee for reporting on the structure and function of the future legislature of India, had feared in 1936 that a second house would “check any forward tendencies of the lower House and will be reactionary”.

“Are we making Nehru’s worst fears come true? We should not for the sake of our parliamentary democracy and the people,” Naidu told the members, adding that the advocates of the Rajya Sabha had some “lofty ideals to be served by it”.

“The first Vice President of India and the first Chairman of this august house, late Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, said on May 13, 1952 that the justification for this house depends on the contributions of the members in respect of the legislative and deliberative functions.

“Are we letting the genius of this august house express itself? Where are the dignified debates that were envisaged? This august house was envisaged to enable a reasoned and quiet consideration of bills by checking hasty legislation by the other house by slowing it at the best. But what is on show is total obstruction of legislation and disregard of issues of public concern,” he said.

He said that all the members need to “now reflect on how we together end up in such a lose-lose situation when it could have been a win-win situation”.

–IANS

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