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Parliament adjourned sine die, chairs express displeasure at session washout
Friday December 16, 2016 9:23 PM, Agencies


New Delhi:
The month-long Winter session of Parliament concluded Friday, with the demonetisation row ensuring a virtual washout and making it one of the "least productive" sessions in the last 15 years.

Due to the repeated disruptions, Lok Sabha could function only for 15.75 per cent and lost 92 hours while Rajya Sabha worked for 20.61 per cent and lost about 86 hours.

Negligible business was transacted during the 21 scheduled sittings of the session that began on November 16 and several important legislations like the one on GST were left pending.

The Lok Sabha lost 92 working hours while the upper House lost more than 86 hours to disruptions and repeated adjournments, mainly over demonetisation, but also to other issues such as the AgustaWestland chopper deal and farmers' distress.

The only significant legislative action was the passage of the Rights of Persons with Disability Bill by both the Houses. Significantly, this bill was cleared on the last day today after a brief debate and with rare bonhomie, similar to the one witnessed in the Rajya Sabha on it two days back.

During the session, the Lok Sabha also passed the Income Tax Amendment Bill without any debate amid din but it could not be taken up for consideration in the Rajya Sabha.

The only other legislative action was the approval of the Supplementary Demands for Grants.

"This has been one of the least productive Question Hour sessions for Rajya Sabha in the last three Parliaments. Previously, one of the 480 questions and none of the 420 questions were answered orally in the Winter sessions of 2010 and 2013, respectively," said PRS Legislative Research.

Both Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan voiced anguish over repeated disruptions and unruly behaviour of the members.

"Regular and continuous disruptions characterised the session... All sections of the house need to introspect on the distinction between dissent, disruption and agitation," Ansari observed in his valedictory remarks.

Mahajan said: "In this session, we lost 91 hours and 59 minutes to adjournments forced by disruptions. This is not good for all of us as it mars our image in the public."

The government blamed the opposition for the Session's failure.

"It is because of their blindfolded strategy to obstruct the proceedings in both houses that we could not make winter session more fruitful. The session failed mainly because of the Congress and their disjointed leadership in the two houses," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar told the media.

He said that the government "did everything they could" to "persuade" the opposition.

"As the ruling party, we did everything we could to run the houses smoothly. Be it inside Parliament or outside or in the Speaker's chamber, we kept persuading them," he added.

The opposition, on its part, has blamed the government for the impasse in both houses.

In the Rajya Sabha, the opposition demanded Prime Minster Narendra Modi's presence during the entire discussion on demonetisation, which was initiated by Anand Sharma of the Congress under Rule 267 (short duration discussion by suspending other business) on the opening day, and refused to let the house function till their demand for the Prime Minister's presence in the house was met.

The government said the Prime Minister would come in the house for parts of the debate and would intervene, but would not sit through the entire debate. The opposition refused to accept it.

In the Lok Sabha, the opposition led by Congress demanded a discussion on demonetisation under a rule that entailed voting. The government declined.

Towards the end, the Congress demanded a discussion without a governing rule and asked the Speaker to let Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi initiate the debate.

However, since the debate under Rule 193 (short discussion) had already been initiated by Telangana Rashtra Samithi member A.P. Jithender Reddy, the Speaker did not allow to suspend that and initiate the discussion afresh.

The last couple of days witnessed angry exchanges between opposition and treasury benches as the ruling bloc, including Ananth Kumar, sought a debate on AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.

The government benches also slammed opposition parties for allegedly running money laundering racket by changing demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.

The Lok Sabha passed four bills during the session, of which two were finance bills related to Supplementary Demand for Grants, the other two being Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016, and the Rights of Persons with Disability Bill, 2014.

The Rajya Sabha passed only one bill, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, which stipulates punishment for those discriminating against the differently-abled.

In the upper house, 116 reports/statements of various Parliamentary Committees including those of the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committees were presented or laid on the table of the house.

Only three matters of public importance could be raised. A total of 330 Starred Questions and 3,517 Unstarred Questions were admitted and answered. Of these, only two Starred Questions could be orally answered.

In the lower house, 10 bills were introduced. And 50 of the 440 starred questions were answered orally.


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