M A I N   N E W S

monsoon session
LS lost 45% time to disruptions, RS 44%
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 8
The monsoon session ended on a caustic note today - just as it had begun on August 1 - with both Houses being adjourned sine die after the BJP sought the suspension of Question Hour to discuss the arrest of two former MPs in the cash-for-vote scam and party veteran LK Advani dared arrest in the matter, sending Treasury Benches into frenzy.

As the 26-day session ended, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha both reported considerable loss of time to disruptions. Question Hour, the sole instrument that ensures government accountability, remained the biggest casualty as only 1.96 questions could be answered a day against the 19.2 listed in Lok Sabha.

As the Opposition disallowed work targeting the government for corruption, Lokpal issue, Gujarat Governor’s interference in Lokayukta’s appointment and cash-for-vote scam, Lok Sabha lost 45 pc of its scheduled time working for 77 hours out of the listed 138. Rajya Sabha lost 44 pc (57 hours) of time.

On the past lines, Question Hour was the hardest hit and not taken up in Lok Sabha on 16 days. Out of 500 listed questions, only 51 were answered by ministers; that’s 1.96 answers a day. Question Hour performance of this eighth session of 15th Lok Sabha was among the three worst since 2009 - preceded by the sixth session (winter session consumed by 2G Spectrum scam) in which 0.2 questions a day were answered and fifth session in which 1.76 queries were daily answered.

In the Upper House, too, only 65 out of 500 listed queries were answered. That explained Chairman Hamid Ansari’ valedictory address, “It being the monsoon session, the House has lived up to its appellation with stormy proceedings and many matters of public importance remained unattended. This is a sad commentary on the duty of the Members …and calls for introspection.” In Lok Sabha, Speaker Meira Kumar returned the sentiment saying, “I’m sure members are committed to check this tendency...”

These concerns stemmed also from the fact that Houses hardly spent time legislating, the key function of Parliament. In Lok Sabha, just 22 of the 138 available hours went into debating bills; maximum time was spent on debating the Indian Medical Council Amendment Bill 2011 (3.37 hours) and Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill 2011 (3.20 hours). In Rajya Sabha, 16 hours out of 130 were spent discussing bills.

No wonder then that out of 37 bills listed for passing, only 22 were passed (11 in LS; 9 in RS) and out of 34 listed for introduction, only 14 (11 in LS and 3 in RS) were introduced, main being on Land Acquisition, National Academic Depository and Benami transactions. Among those passed, Juvenile Justice Amendment (prohibiting children’s segregation on health grounds) and Transplantation of Organs Amendment Bills (to allow grandparents to donate organs) were significant.

Among discussions, the Lokpal debate stole the show, spanning nine hours in LS where 123 members participated. In RS, 21 members participated over seven hours. Another highlight was impeachment motion which the RS adopted against former judge Soumitra Sen.

Asked about reasons for disruptions, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal blamed the Opposition, “We cooperated in every possible way and allowed discussions even where rules didn’t permit one. But still, discussions were disrupted and the essence of the democracy lost.”

Bansal specifically referred to today’s disruption which happened when Speaker declined Advani permission to speak in the Question Hour. She granted the same in Zero Hour though the matter was sub judice.

The Opposition, however, said the government thwarted over 15 notices for the adjournment of Question Hour it gave to discuss inflation and corruption. In the 14th LS, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had allowed nine such motions.





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