Debate on rules as Mines Bill is taken up in Rajya Sabha

The Economic Times, March 10, 2015

The Rajya Sabha today saw several adjournments as the government and opposition benches sparred over rules when the House was to take up a bill to amend Mines Act amid demands for sending it to a Select Committee of Parliament.

Trouble started as soon as Steel and Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar moved the motion for the passage of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015.

An amendment was moved by several opposition members including Jesudasu Seelam (Congress) and P Rajeeve (CPI M), who wanted the Bill to be referred to a Select Committee.

Treasury benches held that there should be a discussion on the Bill, which they claimed was in the interest of states with sizeable tribal populations.

The opposition members disagreed, demanding a vote first on whether the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee.

Members from both the government as well as opposition members quoted rules to buttress their arguments. This continued for more than an hour, during which the House was adjourned thrice, for brief spells.

Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien tried to find a solution to the question whether there should be a discussion or not.

CPI (M) P Rajeeve said a motion for sending the Bill to a Select Committee had been moved by the opposition and in case it is defeated, there could be lots of discussion.

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad criticised the government claiming it was pushing legislations bypassing the detailed scrutiny of Parliamentary committees.

Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the bills were a matter of “urgency” and that the opposition was trying to retain obsolete laws to “delay the benefits” going to tribals and poorer sections.

He termed it as a conspiracy against the tribal states.

Jaitley said the goverment is in disagreement with the view that the motion to refer a Bill to a select committee should be taken without a discussion just because the numbers are on a particular side.

“Debate is not an empty formality. It is an act of persuading other members,” he said, while emphasising that the larger public interest has to be kept in mind.

He asked members to imagine the “converse” situation, wherein a particular group, if in majority, insists that its Bills be considered without a discussion.

With both sides insistent, Deputy Chairman Kurien said he too was trying to understand the matter.

As members quoted various rules, Kurien wanted to know if there was a precedent as per which a vote on the motion could be allowed without a discussion. “Why do you want it without discussion?” he asked.

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