Three bills were passed in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday within minutes and one was introduced, as Congress and BJP came together to complete the pending legislative business but Left parties staged a walkout alleging that “A- Team and B-Team” have come together with an “understanding” to pass the measures without any debate.
The bills were passed within a few minutes without debate amid noisy scenes in the House. The bills passed were the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act (Amendment) Bill, 2015 and the Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, 2015.
While the first two bills are aimed at creating commercial benches in select high courts and amending a law on arbitration for speedy settlement of high value business disputes, the Atomic Energy Bill will allow state-run NPCIL to have collaboration with other PSUs in the nuclear field.
The Atomic Energy Bill that was passed in Lok Sabha on December 14, proposes to amend the 1962 Atomic Energy Act to change the definition of “government company” with a view to expand its scope by including such joint venture companies which may be formed between NPCIL and other PSUs.
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh also introduced the Rajendra Central Agriculture University Bill, 2015 that seeks to convert the existing agriculture university of Bihar in Pusa to a central university for the development of agriculture and agricultural studies.
Opposing the passage of bills without discussion, D Raja (CPI) said it was not a good precedent to pass bills in such a manner. K N Balagopal (CPI-M) said the Congress and BJP were acting as A-Team and B-Team and not allowing the House to discuss the bills.
Trinamool Congress member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy also agreed with Raja. They felt that there were some “fundamental issues” with the Atomic Energy Bill in particular.
Raja, who was a member in the Parliamentary panel that examined the Commercial Courts Bill, said there was “no consensus” on the measure and it will have “serious repurcussions” for justice delivery to the poor.
While concurring with him, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien cited “compulsion” in allowing the passage of some bills without discussion due to the House not functioning earlier.
Hitting out at Congress for allowing the passage of the bills without debate, CPI(M)’s Balagopal said the Congress and BJP were acting as A-Team and B-Team. “This is what Congress and BJP are doing. A-Team and B-Team are playing and not allowing the House to discuss the bills,” he said.
Backing his party colleague, Sitaram Yechury said it is “not fair” if both Congress and BJP have come to such an “understanding”.
“If you are going to do this, even our presence is not required,” Yechury said and led the walkout of all the Left members from the House.
Opposition members also joined ranks to oppose the taking up of the Sugar Cess (Amendment Bill) 2015, that seeks to raise the sugar cess ceiling from Rs 25 to Rs 200 per quintal.
The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha earlier this month but the government’s plea that it will help canegrowers who are in a crisis and it facilitated rehabilitation and modernisation of sugar factories, was not accepted by Opposition members.
Members from Congress, AIADMK, DMK, Left and JD(U) opposed taking up the bill even after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley tried to convince them. The bill will automatically become a law after 14 days even if not returned by Rajya Sabha to Lok Sabha as the Speaker has declared it a money bill.
Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the bill will ensure an amount of Rs 3000 crore for the benefit of farmers and not hurt common man as they are already being given subsidy on sugar through the Public Distribution Sysem.
However, the Opposition members did not allow the bill to be taken up, with Kurien telling the concerned minister that since there was “no consensus”, he was not taking it up.
The issue also led to an exchange of words between Kurien and Yechury, who said the Chair should not be blamed for not discussing the bill.
Buoyed by the passage of three bills, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu urged the members to pass the long-pending Real Estate Bill too, which the Congress objected to. Congress Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha Satyavrat Chaturvedi told Naidu, “let us not end the session in sparring. Do not come with any new bill”.
Reacting sharply, Naresh Gujaral (SAD) said the Congress was blocking all bills which could promote the economy.
Opposition members resented that the government was bringing items which were not listed in the day’s agenda.
“Aankhon Hi Aankhon Me Ishara Ho Gaya,” said Yechury in a tongue-and-cheek remark suggesting an understanding between BJP and Congress.Earlier in the day, as protesting Congress members forced repeated adjournments, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said since Question Hour cannot be taken up in the din, the House should take up the bills for passage on which an agreement was arrived at an all party meeting on Friday.