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UPA ministers get dressing down in RS

New Delhi, Sep 7, 2013, DHNS; 1:36 IST
The United Progressive Alliance government had to face two embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha on Saturday as Law Minister Kapil Sibal expressed regret for failing to place the judicial appointments bill in the Lok Sabha and Deputy Chairman P J Kurien rapped Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister Girija Vyas over her remark in the Upper House.

Vyas criticised the Upper House for not taking up the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, triggering an uproar among “elders” with opposition members demanding that her remarks be expunged from the proceedings. Vyas was upset as leaders had decided to put off the discussion on the bill for the next session and gave vent to her feelings in the House.

Earlier, the House passed the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Bill piloted by Social Justice Minister Kumari Selja.

As members protested the remarks made by Vyas, the Deputy Chairman ordered that the minister’s observations be expunged from the proceedings.

Vyas drew flak on a day when Sibal had to apologise to the Rajya Sabha for a “patent error” in the Constitution (120th Amendment) Bill which was passed by the Upper House on Thursday. The Bill, which seeks to pave the way for replacing the collegium system of appointments to the higher judiciary, was expected to be passed by the Lok Sabha on Friday. With the Lok Sabha adjourning sine die on Friday, opposition members on Saturday demanded an answer from the government on why their suggestion of referring the bill to a standing committee was not considered.

The members refused to accept an explanation from Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and sought the presence of the law minister to explain the reason for the lapse and express regret, as the error had resulted in a loss of time in the upper house.

Though the bill was introduced as the Constitution (120th Amendment) Bill, when it was passed by the Rajya Sabha, it should have been numbered as the 99th amendment. Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) recalled that the Law Minister had insisted that the Bill be passed in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday itself as it was “very urgent” and the government would like to seek the nod of the Lok Sabha the next day.

V Maitreyan (AIADMK), P Rajeeve and K N Balagopal (both CPM), Thawar Chand Gehlot, Najma Heptullah, Purshottam Rupala (all BJP), Prasanta Chatterjee (RSP) demanded an apology from Sibal on the issue and not mere expression of regret. “Despite my best efforts, I am sorry and it is regretted, the bill could not be passed in the Lok Sabha,” said a cornered Sibal.

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