The government’s claims of rules being followed during voting on farm bills in Rajya Sabha on September 20 and its version of events, has a deep discrepancy with television footage of the proceedings accessed by NDTV. The footage shows that on two counts — extension of timing of the house to ensure voting, and the presence of members on their seats during the call for division of votes — the government’s version of events were at variance from when happened on the ground.
The passage of the bills has been a matter of huge contention, with eight members of the opposition being suspended from the house by Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu, following uproar during the proceedings. The opposition parties have said the bills were pushed through voice vote as the government did not have the numbers. The position would have been clear if a physical vote was taken instead of a voice vote, they said, accusing Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh of colluding with the government.
Mr Singh and the government have justified voice vote, saying the Opposition members weren’t in their seats when they demanded physical voting.
The disruption had started around 1 pm, when the opposition claims the Deputy Chairman extended the house proceedings on the proposal of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi without taking consensus of the house.
The Rajya Sabha footage accessed by NDTV showed at around 1.03 pm, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said “Opposition parties are saying that time should not be extended today and tomorrow the minister can reply…”
DMK MP Trichy Siva, a member of parliament for the last two decades, told NDTV,
“Usually, the house is extended after taking consensus of the house”.
But the extension was made “without even looking at our side, just looking at the treasury benches… despite members from 12 opposition parties on their feet asking for adjournment. This is in clear violation of Rajya Sabha Rule 37,” he said.
Addressing the media after the proceedings, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said: “Proceedings were going on peacefully. Parliamentary Affairs Minister wanted the house to be extended till the passing of the bills. This is a normal practice in the parliament. The sense of the house is not gathered by majority and minority. After this opposition parties came to the well of the house and started ruckus.”
KK Ragesh, CPM MP from Kerala, alleged that the Deputy Chairman had violated another rule that day by declining division of votes on his motion to send the bill to the select committee.
Rajya Sabha footage reviewed by NDTV shows that at least two of the three MPs who moved motion to send the bills to the select committee were in their seats when they demanded a division of votes.
The footage showed at 1.10 pm, when the Deputy Chairman took Trichy Siva’s motion for sending the bills to a select committee, he was seen in his seat when he demanded division of votes but the motion was negated through voice vote.
When KK Ragesh’s motion was taken next at 1.11 pm, even he was seen in his seat number 92, when he demanded division of votes. But again, the motion was negated through voice vote.
Rule 252(4)(a) of Procedure And Conduct Of Business In The Council Of States state: “If the opinion of the Chairman as to the decision of a question is challenged and he does not adopt the course provided for in sub- rule (3) he shall order a “Division” to be held.”
Speaking to NDTV, Mr Ragesh said the government allegation that members not in their seats while demanding division was a “blatant lie”.
“House rules were violated. When the member asks for a division from his seat, the motion should have been put for vote through division. But the Deputy Chairman rejected my demand for division, saying I wasn’t in my seat. Rajya Sabha footage will show the truth. Both my constitutional and house rights were denied. The truth is government didn’t have numbers,” he said.
Accusing Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh of colluding with the government, the opposition had passed a no-confidence motion against him, which was negated by the Upper House Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.